On May 4, 2023, ASSOU traveled to Salem to advocate for higher government-funding for Oregon higher education. ASSOU, along with representatives from various universities and community colleges spoke with legislators to highlight the importance of higher education. The Siskiyou spoke with Rook Smith, ASSOU’s Director of Government Affairs, to discuss the trip. ASSOU learned of the event via OSA, the Oregon Students’ Association, a group that advocates for Oregon students.
The Oregon Legislature is currently in the process of planning for the 2023-2025 Budget Cycle. The trip came about as a result of Tina Kotek’s proposed budget changes that could have drastic impacts on students’ tuition costs. “In the past, the state was paying for 70% of students’ tuition,” Smith said. “Now, they’re paying for 30%.”
Student advocates are asking for $1.05 billion to be put in the budget for higher education. Smith highlighted how funding for SOU boosts Ashland’s economy, as well as the economy of the state as a whole. “If you’re funding Oregon Institution’s education, you’re funding the future of Oregon. You’re setting yourself up for success because you won’t encounter as much poverty.”
The May 4 trip to Salem included ASSOU, as well as student athletes and students from the Bridge Program. Southern Oregon University, along with the Oregon Institute of Technology, Western Oregon University and Eastern Oregon University, is a Technical and Regional University. These universities serve more marginalized students and have a vested interest in receiving government funding. On May 11, Keely Reiners and Smith traveled to Salem to again speak to Legislators. During this trip, representatives from larger schools like University of Oregon, along with representatives from community colleges, spoke to legislators. Rook said that most legislators reacted positively to the students. The students are asking for a 14% increase in higher education, significantly higher than Kotek’s proposed 1.4% increase. “In an ideal world, that’s what we’d get,” Smith said, “but if we get closer to 14 than 1.4, I think it’s a win. Next year, we’ll get out there and keep lobbying and pushing it higher.”
Southern Oregon University, along with the Oregon Institute of Technology, Western Oregon University and Eastern Oregon University, are Technical and Regional Universities. TRU’s schools in Oregon have programs to help underserved students transition into college. Kotek’s proposed changes would significantly cut funding to these programs.
Student advocates from these programs spoke to Legislatures. Student athletes also described the importance of lottery winnings going towards student athletes. 1% of proceeds from the Oregon Lottery benefit student athletes. Additionally, government funding would help support the SOU food pantry, creating a hunger-free campus. The budget was supposed to move forward on May 17, but a walkout by Republicans today is jeopardizing the process.