State Treasurer visits COCC to hear from students
The future of tuition aid in Oregon was the topic of discussion when Oregon State Treasurer, Ted Wheeler, visited on Jan. 31.
Wheeler wanted to hear what students had to say about the Opportunity Initiative, a pair of measures designed to create a Student Opportunity Fund using $500 million in bonds.
“This idea didn’t come out of my head–didn’t come out of the Office of the Treasury,” said Wheeler at the round table discussion. “It came from students, primarily.”
The meeting took the form of a roundtable discussion with five students and faculty from Oregon State University-Cascades and five students and faculty from Central Oregon Community College.
The Opportunity Initiative is part of the treasurer’s goal to put more money into education, according to Jim Sinks, Communications Director for the Oregon State Treasury.
“Oregon is doing less in terms of tuition assistance and yet we have higher tuition,” said Sinks. “Eight out of ten don’t receive it simply because they got in line too late.”
It’s “asinine” that many employers in Oregon are forced to hire high-skilled workers from out of state, according to Sinks.
“We need human capital,” said Sinks, “if we’re going to compete nationally and internationally in the workforce of tomorrow.”
The Opportunity Initiative is comprised of two measures, according to a report by Michael Selvaggio, policy director for the Oregon State Treasury. Senate Joint Resolution 1, if passed by voters, would amend the State Constitution to create the Student Opportunity Fund, allow the State to issue bonds into that fund, and take scholarships from it. If SJR1 doesn’t fail at the ballot, Senate Bill 11 can go into effect, authorizing $500 million in bonds to “seed” the Student Opportunity Fund.
“If this program gets passed in its entirety,” said Wheeler, “the state of Oregon will still maintain a relatively low debt profile.”
Rachel Mayhill, president of the Associated Students of Cascades Campus, said that the session “created a lot more questions.”
“I see it as an opportunity for other students to feel heard,” said Mayhill. “To give students more power.”
Kurt Killinger, director of legislative affairs with the Associated Students of Central Oregon Community College said his time spent with Wheeler was “incredibly productive.”
“He was just really personable and willing to help,” said Killinger. “As much as we support him, he supports us.”
Employers of graduates in the community and higher education activists were also invited to the round table discussion to give their input.
“At the end of the day this is about students reaching their full potential,” said Sinks. “[Wheeler] wants to hear their stories and understand what they’re up against.”