Proposed federal budget seen as positive for UO, other research universities

EUGENE, Ore. – (Feb. 15, 2012) – Top University of Oregon officials were encouraged this week when President Obama recognized in his proposed budget the critical importance of scientific research from the nation’s universities in fueling economic activity and fostering breakthroughs in understanding.

“I appreciate the Obama Administration’s commitment to scholarship and research,” said Robert Berdahl, the UO’s interim president. “University research drives innovation and the technological advancements that keep our nation and our state on the leading edge of today’s global economy.”

Kimberly Andrews Espy, the UO’s vice president for research and innovation, and dean of the university’s Graduate School, noted that 17 new companies have been spun out of UO research. Together they employ more than 250 people and pumped $33 million in revenue into the Oregon economy during 2011.

“Sponsored research is absolutely essential to the UO’s mission and to our state’s well-being,” Espy said. “Sponsored activity drew $110 million in funding for 2010-11, and 90 percent of that came from competitive federal grants.

“That federal funding supports work at the UO that pushes the boundaries of knowledge and produces transformative innovation.”

Obama unveiled his proposed budget for the 2013 fiscal year in an appearance Monday before students at Northern Virginia Community College. The $3.8 trillion budget is meant to be a first step toward trimming $4 trillion from the federal deficit over 10 years through spending reductions and higher taxes on those who earn more than $250,000 in annual income, but it generally maintains the support for research and student aid that has been a bipartisan federal spending priority of previous budgets.

One particular area of optimism for the UO is the budget’s ongoing support for student financial aid programs. The Administration’s budget would increase or maintain funding for some key federal programs for student aid and includes incentives for states to reverse their damaging disinvestment in higher education.

“Federal financial aid is integral to our students’ ability to pay for their educations,” said Roger Thompson, the university’s vice provost for enrollment management. “For example, we have leveraged federal Pell Grants, along with funding we receive from the state, to greatly reduce the cost of tuition and fees for qualified lower-income Oregonians who deserve to continue their education at institutions known for excellence, including the University of Oregon.”

The UO’s PathwayOregon program uses federal, state and university funds to ensure that all Pell Grant-eligible undergraduate students – among the neediest Oregonians at the university – have their tuition and fees fully covered by grants. About 1,600 undergraduate Oregonians are currently benefiting from the program.

Thompson said the continuation of federal funding has become critically important in educating Oregon students – and those from other states – as the state has reduced its financial commitment to Oregon’s undergraduates and shifted costs to students and families through tuition increases.

During the 2010-11 academic year, federal financial aid accounted for about $136 million out of the more than $230 million in financial aid awarded to UO students. Of the federal funds, $22.9 million in federal Pell Grants was awarded to 5,456 of the university’s undergraduate students.

As a top national research institution and Oregon’s flagship university, the UO offers top-tier higher education to all academically qualified Oregonians, regardless of income. The UO allocates a portion of tuition revenue to assist students who couldn’t otherwise afford to attend, and both individual and corporate donors also contribute to the university’s financial aid programs.

About the University of Oregon

The University of Oregon is among the 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities for top-tier designation of "Very High Research Activity" in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.

MEDIA CONTACT: Joe Mosley, UO media relations, 541-346-3606, jmosley@uoregon.edu

Note: The University of Oregon is equipped with an on-campus television studio with satellite uplink capacity, and a radio studio with an ISDN phone line for broadcast-quality radio interviews.

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Proposed federal budget seen as positive for UO, other research universities