- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Oregon’s seven public universities installed independent governing boards in recent years. But the schools soon discovered their newfound independence only went so far.

A 2013 state bill that set universities on the path to independence gave schools the ability to manage their own money, but a provision in the state constitution still stands in the way.

Oregon’s constitution forbids all state agencies, including the four-year schools, from investing in “the stock of any company, association or corporation.” Independent foundations working with universities have that right. But the schools themselves can’t invest tuition dollars or state appropriations in the stock market and raise even more money for programs.

But Measure 95, on the ballot this fall, would change that. Oregon lawmakers voted overwhelmingly earlier this year to refer the proposal to voters.

Anna Richter-Taylor, a spokeswoman paid by the UO Foundation to advocate for the measure, said universities primarily rely on state appropriations as well as tuition and fees from students.

“The ability to invest in equities provides universities with a tool to generate revenue from resources that don’t come from raising tuition, taxpayers or cutting jobs,” she said.

Richter-Taylor said public university systems in California, North Dakota, Wyoming, Nevada and New Mexico have similar abilities.

No one has filed an official argument opposing the measure, but three university presidents wrote an opinion in favor of the proposal.

Investing in stocks and other equities “provides an opportunity for us to generate additional revenue when public resources are limited to support student access, academic success and contain growing tuition costs,” the presidents of the University of Oregon, Oregon State University and Eastern Oregon University jointly wrote.

The University of Oregon would likely invest roughly $30 million to $50 million from about $300 million to $400 million in operating funds, said Jamie Moffitt, vice president for finance and administration.

“What we’re talking about is investing funds that are nowhere needed in the short term,” Moffitt said.

If approved, the school would develop and provide quarterly reports to the Board of Trustees at UO outlining the types of investments and amount invested. Moffitt said UO will likely contract with the investment staffer at the foundation, which oversees the school’s endowment, to manage the account.

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Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, https://www.oregonlive.com


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