Oregon's future depends on support for college students
Thomas L. Hellie • January 25, 2009
Recently, a colleague walked into my office and gave me the bad news: Four hundred Linfield students will receive $80 reductions in the state grants that they were promised earlier this year. These are Oregon's neediest students, and they are now being pressed to find more money. Advertisement
Thirty minutes after I learned the news, I sent an e-mail to our students. I promised that I would launch a fundraising campaign to replace the state dollars, and I have now begun asking our alumni to help, just as they did in 2002 when even larger reductions were made. Linfield College alumni and staffers will donate the $32,000 that the state cannot provide.
Of course that's what already happens when a student attends an independent college rather than a state-supported university. Alumni and friends provide financial aid that makes it possible for us to teach a higher percentage of needy students than are found at our public flagship universities where state taxes subsidize students of all income levels. In fact, each time a student selects an independent college, Oregon taxpayers are spared from subsidizing him or her at a public university.
It is vital to remind everyone that colleges such as Linfield and Willamette offer personalized education that enables students to study with fully credentialed professors, develop well-rounded skills and graduate on time. Thanks to our financial aid programs, many students tell us that it is actually cheaper to attend a private college than a state-supported university.
About 20 percent of Oregon's college students attend institutions such as Linfield, Willamette, Corban and 17 other independent colleges. Because of our high graduation rates, we award 28 percent of the bachelor's degrees and 38 percent of the graduate degrees in the state. Almost two-thirds of the bachelor's of nursing degrees were awarded at Oregon's independent colleges last year; 90 percent of the state's elementary teaching degrees came from our independent colleges.
If Oregon is to recover from these challenging economic times, we must educate citizens who can compete in a dynamic global economy. That means that all sectors of Oregon's higher-education community, including independent colleges, must win support and recognition. Gov. Ted Kulongoski has been a tremendous supporter of higher education, and thus we hope that the current reduction in the Oregon Opportunity Grant is just a bump in the road.
If Oregon is to thrive in the future, we must support the students who attend all of our colleges, both public and private.
Thomas L. Hellie is the president of Linfield College in McMinnville. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.