The Next Phase of OUS Restructuring
July 15, 2010
With the adoption of the Chancellor’s Governance proposal by the State Board of Higher Education, OUS Restructuring has entered the next phase. It is now up to the Legislative Higher Education Task Force to embrace the plan, or offer an alternate plan, that will become the legislative concept that leads to a OUS Restructuring, or more likely a Higher Education Restructuring Bill.
The Chancellor’s proposal calls for OUS to shed its State Agency status and become a statewide Public University System that looks like a Community College District in status, funding, and structure albeit with individual campuses retaining a level of autonomy (not complete autonomy) to face its unique challenges and capitalize on its unique opportunities.
While the Chancellor’s proposal goes far in addressing the needs and interests of OUS, according to Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) Executive Director David Longanecker and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) President Dennis Jones, consultants hired by the Higher Education Task Force to review the proposal, it does not go far enough to address the need for the State of Oregon to create a systemic, holistic approach to Higher Education that includes the community college system. The Chancellor’s proposal will likely be substantially re-worked by the committee, but even at this stage it is clear that the legislative concept will contain a number of key attributes. All of these changes will have substantial trickle down impact on faculty.
Shifting Focus from Enrollment to Success
The consultants report a changing landscape in Higher Education nationwide to an outcomes based approach to funding and delivery of services. At the system level, this includes changing the point at which funding is allocated from the 3rd week in the term to the end of the term; creating “momentum points” in a student’s progress toward their degree (based upon the Washington model) that provides support toward completion, and most importantly, shifting funding priorities to those programs and student populations where degree completion can be emphasized and supported. We are witnessing the beginning of this wave in the PSU mandatory advising initiative; expect the dialog that includes more faculty engagement in student success to greatly expand.
Shifting Focus from Process Control to Outcome Accountability
The State’s focus to date has been controlling the “how” of Higher Education through regulations: OARs, internal management directives, and Statutes. While Oregon has not been unique in its approach to Education through regulation, the consultants suggest it has gone beyond most other states in the level of regulation it has achieved. Further, no outcome measures are in Statute, not even the 40-40-20 goal that the State has used as a foundation in its education policy. This will change.
The consultants give high marks to the Chancellor’s proposal to shift funding to a block grant in exchange for the achievement of specific and measurable outcomes from the system and each institution. The State’s key challenge is creating policy and Statute that enables outcomes and gives the flexibility as necessary to the system and institutions to produce those outcomes.
The “who gets to decide” will change. OUS hopes to retain a coordinating board over the other institutions that create policy and goals to meet State outcome requirements (as cited in the new compact with the State). This may or may not include the creation of local boards. The Chancellor’s proposal retains the responsibility to evaluate and hire institution presidents while the PSU proposal is for a PSU local board to have that responsibility. The consultants did comment that PSU’s desire to have taxing authority like community colleges (and one reason to have a local board) does not exist at any other public 4-year institution in the country and is a hard sell to voters.
Of concern to faculty is how working conditions could change in a system where the underlying OAR’s of employment policy and practice could disappear. Collective Bargaining Agreements in Oregon are noticeably weak in areas where underlying OAR’s legislate employment issues that fall within the mandatory subjects of bargaining; these areas include academic freedom, student and faculty conduct, employee leaves, intellectual property rights, and a myriad other issues that directly apply to faculty. While much of these issues can be dealt with in collective bargaining, faculty in non-collective bargaining institutions are particularly vulnerable to changes in employment practices. This counters the systemic approach to a Higher Education Solution.
PSU-AAUP is most concerned with promoting quality higher education as an investment in Oregon’s future. Our voice in the restructuring conversation is crucial to balance the input of these consultants and OUS leaders who, for the most part, attack the issue from an administrative perspective and not from the classroom. We will continue to be an active part of the discussion at the OUS and the State discussions.
Should you have any questions or concerns, please let me know.
Phil Lesch Executive Director PSU-AAUP