Less State Money = Higher Tuition At Oregon State Universities. Not So Fast.


A group of University of Oregon students protested tuition hikes on May 25, 2017.

Here we go again.

Oregon’s state universities will be raising their tuition again next school year.

Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission recently approved a resident undergraduate in-state tuition increase of 8.37 percent at Portland State University (PSU)  for 2017-18, as well as increases at other Oregon state universities.

With the state’s fairly steady disinvestment in higher education over the years, it is commonly assumed that this has been the primary driver of tuition increases.

I even wrote an article a while ago blaming the Legislature for rising tuition at state universities. “Because of the Legislature’s calculated callousness or pure indifference in funding Oregon universities, young people across the state are facing soaring college loan debts and diminished opportunities for higher education,” I wrote.

But research indicates that declines in state support may not be the primary villain.

A Brookings Institute review of research on the disinvestment hypotheses revealed that a clear causal relationship between reductions in per-student state appropriations and increases in tuition has not been established. Moreover, there’s a “surprisingly thin” amount of research on the relationship.

Sure, higher education tuition has been rising as state support has been declining, but claims that changes in state appropriations are the biggest factor causing tuition increases are simplistic assertions based on nothing more than a comparison of two trends, a Brookings Institute paper said.

For example, in a recent article for FiveThirtyEight, Doug Webber, a professor at Temple University, put changes in tuition at public universities side-by-side with changes in state appropriations in a table, divided one column into the other, and then labeled the result, “share of tuition hike explained by cuts” [Emphasis added].

Brookings challenged this analysis. “..it does not explain how much of the funding cut caused the increase in tuition…Rather, it assumes that a causal relationship already exists, that it is dollar-for-dollar, and that no other factor could explain the changes in tuition,” Brookings said.

A study by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics found that changes in appropriations account for only between 19 percent and 28 percent of changes in published in-state tuition prices.

Another study published in a National Bureau of Economic Research volume examined a dozen factors that might be associated with changes in tuition, including changes in appropriations from state governments. This study, by Michael Rizzo and Ronald G. Ehrenberg, looked at these changes for 98 universities over a 10-year period.

The paper includes an important finding on the magnitude of the effect of a reduction in state appropriations on tuition. The effect, it concluded, is miniscule. The authors found that, “for the average institution in our sample, it would take an increase of $1,000 in state appropriations per student to generate an in-state tuition reduction of only $60.” That means six cents of every dollar in appropriations find their way into lower tuition.

A George Washington University study also has found that changes in appropriations have a very small effect on tuition at public universities. This study found that just ten cents of every dollar increase in appropriations would find their way into lower tuition, an effect similar in magnitude to what Rizzo and Ehrenberg found.

“If the relationship between state appropriations and tuition at public universities is as weak as the two studies show, the ubiquitous claim that cuts to state funding are the “primary driver” of changes in tuition are simply not supported by the research,” the Brookings Institute reported.

Equally, the research suggests that increased appropriations for public universities are unlikely to have an effect as large as advocates assume. “That makes increasing appropriations for public colleges and universities an ineffective—even wasteful—policy for keeping tuition low,” Brookings said. “It also implies that grant aid might deliver more bang for the buck than larger state appropriations.”

So why such an apparently weak link between appropriatio0ns and tuition? Brookings speculates that universities may be simply looking to exploit their pricing power in the market, leading them to raise tuition whether appropriations rise or fall.



Recruiting a New Portland Police Chief: Hair Shirt Required


Posting on governmentjobs.com

City of Portland Job Opportunities, Closing – 6/12/2017 4:30 PM Pacific


“The State of Oregon and its largest city, Portland, share a history of legally sanctioned systemic racism with legally enforced exclusionary practices. Given this history, the successful candidate must demonstrate the capacity and commitment to expand on existing strategies to improve relationships with and service provision to Portland’s communities of color, ensuring that equity is a bedrock of policing in Portland.”

Now that the self-flagellation is over, here’s the job application

Keep The Kicker


Oregonians learned earlier today that they may be up for another kicker.  And the progressive Oregon Center for Public Policy is already bitching about “lost revenue.”

“Should it come to pass, this unanticipated, automatic tax cut would cost the state about $400 million at a time when Oregon schools and essential services are at risk from budget cuts and suffer from long-term underfunding,” the Center said in an e-mail blast.

“Lost revenue?” “Cost the state?” Give me a break.

It’s not the state’s money. It’s yours. But progressives keep finding reasons to take it away.

In 2015, when an improving economy triggered a “kicker” rebate of about $400 million, State Rep. Tobias Read, D-Beaverton, sponsored a bill that would have diverted half of that $400 million to education and half to the state’s general reserve. Fortunately, Read’s bill didn’t get a committee hearing.

According to The Oregonian, Sen. Alan DeBoer, R-Ashland, plans to introduce a bill to redirect the kicker to K-12 education. If it passes, voters will make the final decision.

Oregonians already made it perfectly clear what they think of this idea. In 2016, Oregon taxpayers were given an opportunity to donate their kicker rebate to the state’s Common School Fund when they filled out their tax forms. Hardly any did. At one point, records showed fewer than one-half of one percent of taxpayers were choosing to do so. Hardly a magnanimous endorsement of the idea.

The state got itself into a real mess with its constant spending increases and ever-expanding pension obligations. Don’t let that be an excuse for ending the kicker.


What Does the Resistance Want?


 Good grief. Another nationwide anti-Trump march is in the works.

 Indivisible, a national anti-Trump movement advocating a permanent, organized rebellion, is calling for a March For Truth on Saturday, June 3.

“Let’s rise together to call for a fair and impartial investigation into the Trump administration’s ties to Russia and demand the pursuit of truth.” Indivisible says.

Indivisible says marches are already planned for at least 50 cities across the country. Portland’s is set to take place at Terry Schrunk Plaza in Portland.

The March for Truth will follow the March for Science, the Tax March, the People’s Climate March and the Women’s March.

We’re starting to look like France, with its perpetual violent protests over such things as police brutality, politicians, labor laws, pay policies, pension reform, education reform, nurse suicides, the ruling elite and just about everything else.

But as the US progressive-led protests multiply, what exactly is the point?

“Resist!” the protesters exclaim. Resist what? That they lost an election? That the winner is not advocating the policies and programs the loser and her backers favored?

The protests may be an emotionally rewarding bonding exercise, but as a New York Post column noted, “In a self-governing republic with established democratic processes, there is no honorable role for “resistance.”

This resistance suggests progressives only support free elections if they win.

“Those who lose elections in free countries are the opposition, and can fix that by winning their next election,” the Post column said. “Instead of asking why they lost, the ‘resistance’ decided to pretend the loss of any election amounts to oppression and have adopted the language of revolution to rally themselves.”

Making things more deplorable, the principal organization behind the protests doesn’t disclose who is funding them. That organization, The Indivisible Project, is a registered 501c(4) nonprofit that says its mission “… is to fuel a progressive grassroots network to defeat the Trump agenda. “

Indivisible’s most recent Facebook post features a plea for donations and includes a lengthy explanation of its fundraising philosophy, but leaves out any mention of transparency. It highlights that a major donor has agreed to match all donations dollar-for-dollar until the beginning of Memorial Day recess, May 26th.

But at a time when progressives complain about dark money in politics, the major donor is not named.

Shocker! Oregon Dumping Smarter Balanced Exams in High Schools


So much for Oregon’ commitment to the Smarter Balanced exams.

In a shocking action, after just two years of using the tests, the Oregon Department of Education has decided to abandon the controversial Smarter Balanced tests at the high school level.


According to Education Week, Oregon will continue to administer the exam to students in grades 3-8 and 11 through the spring of 2018, state education department spokeswoman Tricia Yates told the publication. Starting in 2018-19, only students in grades 3-8 will take the test, she said.

Yates said Oregon will explore using a “nationally recognized” test, such as the SAT or ACT, for high school student going forward. The state will issue a “request for information” this spring to collect ideas from the field, and then issue a “request for proposals” later this summer, she added.

Federal law has long allowed states to use college-admissions exams in place of other summative tests for accountability, but few states have done so. The Every Student Succeeds Act invites states to use “a nationally recognized high school test” for accountability instead of state-developed or consortium-designed exams.

The popularity of the consortium tests has eroded particularly at the high school level. Trying to cut back on testing time and boost students’ motivation to do well on a high school test, states are increasingly opting to use the ACT or SAT.

Oregon’s decision is particularly significant because leaders of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium drew heavily on Oregon’s experience with computer-adaptive testing when they set out to craft the new exam in 2010, Education Week said.

The state’s decision likely has the support of the Oregon Education Association (OEA), which has aggressively opposed the Smarter Balanced Assessment tests. In June 2015, Gov. Kate Brown pleased the OEA, but exasperated and angered many school officials, when she signed a bill making it easier for children to opt out of standardized tests, including the Smarter Balanced Assessment.


Why it’s so damn hard to cut government


President Obama signs the Every Student Succeeds Act in Dec. 2015

Trump thinks he’s going to reduce the size of government. Good luck.

After the country had gotten along quite well without a cabinet-level Department of Education for more than 200 years, Democratic President Jimmy Carter established one in 1979.

When the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which amended the No Child Left Behind law, was enacted on December 10, 2015, a key objective was to cut back on the bureaucratic bloat in the Department of Education.

To accomplish that, the law included provisions eliminating 49 ineffective or duplicative federal education programs, required that the Secretary of Education identify the number of full-time equivalent positions associated with the eliminated programs and required the Secretary to reduce those positions by an equal amount.

But, as usual, the bureaucracy knew how to protect itself.

When ESSA became law, the Department of Education had about 4,400 employees and an annual budget of $68 billion.

Given the size and complexity of the Department, and the scope of ESSA, you’d think ESSA would have led to substantial personnel cutbacks. Ha!

The Department calculated that ESSA didn’t reauthorize only six programs – Advanced Placement, Elementary and Secondary School Counseling, Mathematics and Science Partnerships, Physical Education Program, School improvement Grants and Transition to Teaching, for a total of 15.5 FTEs.

That’s right, the massive changes wrought by the passage of ESSA led to the elimination of just 15.5 of the department’s 4400 FTE positions.

At that rate, it will take at least 283 years to eliminate the department, the goal of many hard-core conservatives since the department was created. I’d guess the department is safe.




Gov. Brown’s Hiring Freeze: Too Little, Too Late



More than two months after Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli of John Day called for a hiring freeze in Oregon’s public sector, Democratic Gov. Kate Brown has signed an executive order imposing a hiring freeze.

But it will only last until June 30 of this year. Too little. Too late.

In deciding on a hiring freeze, Brown’s no bold innovator. She’s following what more responsible states and businesses have done before.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, in an effort to strengthen state finances, imposed a state hiring freeze last year that whittled 1,161 employees from the payroll.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, whose state missed revenue forecasts last fiscal year and is forecasting a miss again because of declines in farm income, also put on a hiring freeze for state employees. “As Nebraskans, we don’t spend money we don’t have,” Ricketts said.

Businessess pull back when they face financial challenges, too.

Macy’s, faced with unfavorable earnings, decided to shut down 68 stores and cut more than 10,000 jobs.

In December 2011, then Gov. John Kitzhaber, who was also facing budget troubles, ordered a hiring freeze. But when Gov. Brown released her recommended budget for 2017-19, she chose not to do the same.

In fact, with Oregon facing a $1.6 billion budget shortfall in the 2017-19 biennium, buried in the Governor’s initial budget was a proposal to actually increase the state government workforce from 38,737 in 2015-17 to 39,412 in 2017-19. That’s an increase of 675 full-time equivalent employees.

“Using the cost information from the Legislative Fiscal Office, this 1.7 percent increase would cost the state more than $120 million in compensation costs for the 2017-19 biennium,” according to Facing Reality, a Cascade Policy Institute report.

“A prudent step of a hiring freeze would free up resources and ward off some of the pressure to increase taxes, fees, and charges,” the report said.

An ever-expanding state is not sustainable without ever-increasing taxation.   If Oregon is to responsibly manage its finances, an across-the-board rigorously enforced hiring freeze, with stringent requirements for exceptions and restrictions on hiring contractors, should be imposed for the entire next biennium.

Surely the governor and Legislature, with a state workforce that’s already at 38,737, can find ways to meet the state’s needs by adjusting the workload and assignments of that workforce.

Take a leap folks. Do the right thing.