As a student in the Oregon University System, you will be affected by changes taking place in the future of higher education. That’s why members of the Oregon Student Association say it’s important for students to vote.
“Schools need to come up with a plan to increase access to student registration,” says Sarah Westover of the Oregon Student Association. Students’ lack of access to information on how to register to vote has constituted what Oregon Senate Bill 951 referred to as a “state of emergency” for the past five years.
In response, OSA designed a plan to register more students.
“Most effective in getting students to register has been speaking in classrooms,” says Raul Tovar Jr., a psychology major working with OSA. “The second most effective way has been clipboarding.”
He said the biggest obstacle has been getting teachers to commit to classroom time, as well as finding areas where they are allowed to make their case.
Jason Pennell, ASSOU director of governmental affairs, cites two reasons for emphasizing student participation in local politics.
“One is funding levels for universities, which used to be at two-thirds, operated by the state, but which are now down to one-third. There are serious ramifications to this disinvestment,” he says. “Number two is our effectiveness at teaching students, prepping students for jobs. This is more difficult to do under disinvestment.”
“In 2007, tuition was 44 percent less than it is now,” says Tovar. “Students are almost paying double. We are trying to get the state to invest more.”
State funding is one of six issues identified by OSA based on statewide surveys conducted in 2010 by the Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group. Others include: childcare funding for student parents and guardians of young children; tuition equity; and “cultural competency training” for on-campus healthcare providers, which Westover says will ensure providers are trained to address the needs of traditionally marginalized groups.
Another issue identified by OSPIRG is “restructuring,” which several public universities are exploring. It involves using independent boards for each school instead of being ruled by of the Oregon University System.
Pennell said this restructuring is the most controversial movement in the current higher education scene. “There is a chain of flow regulating the educational system,” he says. “The whole system got re-jumbled in the last legislative session. They created a new board, the Oregon Investment Board, which has made recommendations where before they didn’t exist.”