The University of Oregon is committed to transparency and accountability as the institution carries out its core mission of teaching, research, and service, and of providing an affordable and excellent education for all students. Below are frequently asked questions intended to help answer some common inquiries about the university’s budget and operations. This is an evolving website and community input will assist in future iterations. If you have input, a question, or a topic you would like to suggest, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- What revenue sources make up the UO's budget?
- How much of the UO's budget comes from tuition or from Oregon taxpayers?
- How does the amount of funding for the UO from the state compare to other peer universities and to Oregon's other public universities?
- Given that tuition is such a large share of the operating budget, how is it set?
- What does the E&G budget pay for?
- How is the UO Athletics Department funded?
- Why doesn't the UO Athletics Department provide funds to the university?
- Does the UO have an E&G budget surplus?
- Why can't the funds from the UO's $3 billion campaign be used to fill budget gaps?
- Can UO Foundation resources be used to help balance the budget? Why aren't Foundation records publicly available?
- What is OPE and why is it so high at the UO? Does the UO make money off of OPE rates?
- How is research funded at the University of Oregon and how does it impact the institutional budget?
- Are the UO trustees paid?
- Why does it take so long to get public records and why is it so expensive?
- How do personnel costs impact UO's budget?
- Why are the PERS increases so large? Who establishes these rates? Is it possible for the UO to simply not fund the increases?
- How long do we anticipate PERS to be underfunded by the state?
- What are the plans for dealing with the PERS and PEBB programs?
- Could the UO save money by cutting administrative salaries?
- What is the UO doing to offer more scholarships?
- What is the UO doing to support first-generation students and low-income families in Oregon?
- Can money from donors be tapped to pay for operating costs, scholarships for students, and/or other needs?
- How is the UO paying for all the new buildings that are going up on campus?
- Why can't the UO cut costs as a way to bring down expenses?
- Why has the UO lost so many international students?
1. What revenue sources make up the uo's budget?
The UO’s annual operating budget is more than $1.1 billion, and funding comes from a variety of sources, including tuition and fees, state appropriations, auxiliary operations (e.g., housing, athletics, the EMU), grants, private and government contracts, donor gifts, and investment earnings.
2. How much of the UO’s budget comes from tuition or from Oregon taxpayers?
Almost half of the UO’s annual budget comes from two sources—student tuition and state government support. These two sources comprise the bulk of the UO’s Education and General (E&G) budget, which pays for the majority of the institution’s academic operating costs. In FY18-19, tuition accounted for 79 percent of the E&G budget and state appropriations made up 13.2 percent of that budget.
3. How does the amount of funding for the uo from the state compare to other peer universities and to Oregon’s other public universities?
The UO receives a very low level of state support compared to other peer universities across the country and Oregon’s other public universities. The latest Association of American Universities (AAU) public university peer data show that the UO only receives 42.4 percent of the average state funding per resident student of peer institutions. The data for UO funding vs. other Oregon public universities is listed below.
Total funding per fundable student
PUSF funding per fundable student (Public University Support Fund)
Percent of E&G funds provided by state
4. Given that tuition is such a large share of the operating budget, how is it set?
Tuition is set and approved by the University of Oregon Board of Trustees. If the Board approves an increase to resident undergraduate tuition and fees of more than 5 percent, then the proposed increase needs to be approved by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) or the Oregon State Legislature. There is no requirement to increase resident and non-resident tuition at the same rate.
The Tuition and Fee Advisory Board (TFAB), an 18-member board comprised of students, faculty, and staff that is co-chaired by Jamie Moffitt, Vice President for Finance and Administration and CFO, and Kevin Marbury, Vice President for Student Life, makes recommendations to the president regarding tuition and fee rates. TFAB starts meeting in the fall each year to review and discuss relevant data and budget information, analyze specific tuition and fee proposals, organize a public student forum to share information and solicit student feedback, and provide recommendations to the president. TFAB meetings are open, and non-advisory group members are welcome to participate. Information about TFAB and the tuition-setting process is available on the UO’s Tuition website.
5. What does the E&G budget pay for?
The E&G budget funds the majority of the institution’s academic operating costs and research support costs, including faculty and staff salaries, classrooms and libraries, research core facilities, academic advising, information technology, facilities, fundraising, admissions, human resources, and over $50 million in financial aid and scholarships.
6. How is the uo athletics department funded?
The UO Athletics Department is self-sufficient, meaning it does not receive funding from tuition or any general state operating funds provided to the university. The department covers all of its direct operating costs with revenue generated from ticket sales, Pacific-12 Conference distributions, gifts, and other revenue streams. The academic tutoring program for athletes (John E. Jaqua Academic Center for Student-Athletes), however, is both funded and managed by the Office of the Provost—given its academic focus. The UO Athletics Department also transfers over $3 million per year to the E&G fund to cover administrative overhead charges.
7. Why doesn’t the UO Athletics Department provide funds to the university?
The vast majority of collegiate athletic programs across the country are subsidized by their respective institutions. The UO Athletics Department is one of only a handful of programs that is self-sufficient, receiving no funding from tuition or any general state operating funds. Revenues and expenditures for athletics equal each other and do not generate a surplus. The university charges the UO Athletics Department, as well as other auxiliary operations (e.g. housing, the Health Center), an administrative overhead charge to account for the fact that they use university resources and services such as the financial system, general counsel’s office, human resources, etc. Last year the UO Athletics Department paid over $3 million in administrative overhead to the university. The UO Athletics Department also pays the university the full amount of any and all scholarships it awards to student-athletes, which equates to about $12 million per year in support of the institution’s academic operations.
8. Does the UO have an E&G budget surplus?
The university does not have an E&G fund surplus. For the last several years, the E&G fund has been running a deficit, with annual expenses running higher than annual revenue. The reasons for these deficits include cost increases attributable to the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), the Public Employees' Benefits Board (PEBB), salary increases, and a steep decline in international student enrollment. The institution is working to address this situation through budget cuts, tuition increases, and enrollment growth. There are, however, E&G fund carryforward balances (one-time reserve funds). These funds, which totaled approximately $59.8 million at the start of FY20, represent a reserve of about six weeks of operating expenses. The funds are spread across the institution in the balances carried by schools and colleges and other departments. This level of reserves is very low compared to peer institutions across the country. The E&G carryforward is made up of one-time funds and is not available to be utilized for covering recurring operating expenses except in extraordinary circumstances.
9. Why can't the funds from the UO’s $3 billion campaign be used to fill budget gaps?
Donors are generally inspired to give funds to the university to make a difference—to launch new programs, build new buildings, and support new initiatives. Often the funding that they provide enables the university to pursue institutional priorities that wouldn’t be possible within the constraints of the existing operating budget. Very few donors, however, are motivated to provide funds to simply cover basic operating costs. As with most fundraising campaigns, almost all of the funds that are being raised in the current capital campaign are restricted, which means that they cannot be diverted from their intended purpose to support general university operations. Rather, they must be used to support the program, initiative, scholarship program, or academic unit that the donor specified when the funds were gifted. The university is legally obligated to follow the directions established at the time of the gift. These funds are generally not available to pay for university-wide operating costs, including increases in faculty and staff salaries, or the cost of medical insurance or retirement programs.
10. Can UO foundation resources be used to help balance the budget? Why aren’t foundation records publicly available?
The University of Oregon Foundation is a charitable 501(c)(3) organization that is responsible for administering private gifts made to the UO. The Foundation is a separate entity from the university, and its mission is to partner with the institution to manage donor gifts. Donors entrust the Foundation with fiduciary oversight of their charitable gifts and, in turn, it holds in confidence the details of that giving and other related information. The Foundation ensures that all university spending of donor money is consistent with the donor's intention. Audited financial statements for the UO Foundation are available on its website.
11. What is OPE and why is it so high at the UO? does the uo make money off of OPE rates?
Oftentimes in conversations about the compensation of university employees, one may hear the term “salary plus OPE” used to describe the total cost of employment. OPE stands for Other Payroll Expenses and it includes employee benefit costs such as medical and dental insurance, retirement, Social Security, Medicare, workers' compensation, and other benefits. The UO does not make any money off of OPE charges. Instead, OPE rates account for the real costs that the institution must pay for employees. OPE rates can vary from as low as 3 percent of salary for student employees to more than 123 percent of base salary for many of the university’s classified employees. All of the universities in Oregon have very high OPE rates due to the high cost of the state-run medical and retirement programs.
12. How is research funded at the University of Oregon and how does it impact the institutional budget?
In FY19, the University of Oregon spent about $125 million to conduct sponsored projects, primarily research. This was an increase from about $119 million in FY18. Most of these funds come from the federal government for specific projects and the money cannot be used for purposes other than those specified in the award. The Higher Education Research and Development Survey offers additional information on how the UO’s research awards and expenditures compare to other institutions.
Unless limited by the project sponsor, awards include both direct project costs and indirect facilities and administrative costs (F&A). F&A is a reimbursement for project costs that cannot be allocated to any given award. The F&A rate is negotiated between the university and federal government, following extensive cost-accounting and space-allocation-survey processes. The UO’s rate for on-campus research is 47.5 percent, which is the lowest rate of any AAU institution. The federal research F&A rate is made up of administrative costs, which the federal government caps for all institutions at 26 percent, and facilities, which is calculated based on a number of factors primarily related to the space used for sponsored research.
The University of Oregon recovered $24.6 million in F&A costs in FY19. At the University of Oregon, F&A is spent to support the research mission of the university by supporting faculty (via capital construction for research space, start-up costs, retention costs, core research facilities, support for the library and support of programs and activities related to research, scholarship and creative inquiry), unit administration (which is returned using a formula), central research administration, and utilities.
13. Are the UO Trustees paid?
No. The University of Oregon Board of Trustees is a 15-member, volunteer board that supervises, coordinates, manages, and regulates the UO, as provided by state statute. Trustees are appointed by the governor and approved by the Oregon State Senate.
14. Why does it take so long to get public records and why is it so expensive?
The vast majority of requests are fulfilled in a few days and four out of five requests are fulfilled at zero cost to the requester.
In FY18-19, the two employees in the Office of Public Records processed 494 public records requests. This represents an 88 percent increase in requests made from FY10-11, despite no additional permanent staff (the office was created in 2010). 95 percent of requests were closed with an average completion time of six days. The remaining requests required collection from multiple sources, responsive records were difficult to locate, required forensic reproduction, or the documents required complex processing and/or redaction. 100 percent of the requests were completed within the timeline required by SB481, which amended the Oregon Public Records Law to require the completion of all requests within 15 business days (absent a specific exception).
80 percent of requests received in FY18-19 were fulfilled at no cost to the requestor. The office also makes a practice of granting a 20 percent fee waiver to members of the institutionalized media. The Office charges for the actual cost of making public records available, the bulk of which is staff time. Staff time could include locating, gathering, reviewing, compiling or redacting records to protect certain types of information such as student records, personnel records, faculty research, and trade secrets, as required by law.
More information around response times and costs can be found in the Office of Public Records’ annual report.
15. How do personnel costs impact UO’s budget?
Approximately 79 percent of the UO’s E&G fund costs are tied to personnel. Changes to compensation rates are set by the university’s five labor contracts and/or through compensation decisions related to the Officers of Administration (OA) and unrepresented faculty. Maintaining competitive salaries for faculty and staff is important in order to ensure success as an institution and allow the UO to recruit and retain quality employees. That said, because personnel costs make up the majority of UO’s budget, when the institution’s financial position is negatively impacted by external factors like PERS/PEBB increases, state funding, and enrollment fluctuations, the institution generally has to consider cuts to personnel costs in determining how to respond to these financial pressures.
16. Why are the PERS increases so large? Who establishes these rates? Is it possible for the UO to simply not fund the increases?
All public employers in Oregon are required to participate in the state-run retirement program. The rates charged to the University of Oregon for benefits provided by the program are set by the PERS Board. The program does not currently have enough assets to pay for all of the retirement obligations promised to existing and former state employees. As a result, rates are expected to continue to go up and stay high for the foreseeable future. The university is legally bound to pay those rate increases.
17. How long do we anticipate PERS to be underfunded by the state?
Unfortunately, the PERS issue is a long-term problem. Given the current underfunded status of the state plan, the UO has been told to expect significant PERS rate increases in FY22 and FY24. It is possible that some of the recent PERS legislative actions will reduce the rate increases that are expected in FY22. However, it is hard to know for sure as the funded status of the plan can be greatly affected by swings in the financial markets. After FY24, PERS rates are likely to remain at these higher levels for decades to come as pension obligations are paid to retirees.
18. What are the plans for dealing with the PERS and PEBB programs?
The UO is working hard to lobby for more state funding to cover the costs of these state-mandated programs. This is part of the broader legislative process, which starts in February. The institution has also been working on an enrollment growth initiative to help stabilize the university’s budget.
19. Could the UO save money by cutting administrative salaries?
In order to attract talented faculty and administrators to the university, the institution must offer salaries that are competitive in a national marketplace. Benchmark studies against the other public AAU institutions show that, on average, the UO pays between 85 percent and 95 percent of the average of its peers for employee groups. The UO is also much leaner in terms of administrative staffing than our peers. Cutting pay, either for administrators or faculty, would significantly impact the ability to recruit and retain faculty, OAs, and staff.
20. What is the UO doing to offer more scholarships?
This is an area where the UO has made tremendous progress. Institutional funding for need- and merit-based scholarships increased from $28.2 million in 2013-14 to $37.8 million in 2018-19, a gain of 34 percent. The amount of scholarship funding exceeds $50 million when private donations are included. One of the key focuses of the fundraising campaign going forward is additional scholarships for students, including more support for the PathwayOregon program.
21. What is the UO doing to support first-generation students and low-income families in Oregon?
For the last 10 years, the university has provided qualified, low-income resident students with significant financial and academic support. The university's PathwayOregon program covers the full cost of tuition and mandatory fees for four years for Oregonians who are Federal Pell Grant-eligible, academically qualified first-time freshmen. In addition to financial support, PathwayOregon students receive intensive advising services to help them navigate college. In total, over 2,500 students are currently supported by PathwayOregon. Many of the students who benefit from PathwayOregon are the first in their families to go to college or are under-represented minorities.
22. Can money from donors be tapped to pay for operating costs, scholarships for students, and/or other needs?
Raising more money for student success programs is one of the top priorities of the recent $1 billion extension of the UO’s capital campaign, including sustained support for PathwayOregon and more money for need- and merit-based aid. Generous donors have already provided tens of millions of dollars in direct aid for scholarships and student support, and it will remain a fundraising priority going forward. That doesn’t mean, however, that donor dollars that have been given to support specific programs—such as capital construction, science initiatives, cultural centers, and classrooms—can be diverted for other purposes. When donors give to a specific project, the gifts the university receives are restricted, and the university is legally required to use the funds for the purpose specified by the donor. That said, gift dollars frequently pay for enhancements to our campus and our programs, thereby substantively improving the quality of every student’s experience.
23. How is the UO paying for all the new buildings that are going up on campus?
The majority of the funds that are used to construct new buildings on campus are either coming from donor gifts, state-paid bonds, or non-tuition revenue. For example, the construction of Hayward Field and the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact are almost entirely paid for with donor gifts. Other examples of recent construction that were funded primarily through gifts and state-paid bonds include the new Allan Price Science Commons and Research Library, renovation of Chapman Hall for the Robert D. Clark Honors College, and Willie and Donald Tykeson Hall.
24. Why can’t the UO cut costs as a way to bring down expenses?
The university has cut costs significantly over the last five years, through multiple rounds of budget cuts. For example, in the spring of 2019, the university announced a two-year effort to reduce operating costs by $11.6 million. The reductions are driven by a perfect storm of a multiyear drop in international enrollment, rising labor, retirement, and health care costs, and projected funding allocations from the state that are not keeping up with costs. The bulk of that effort was focused on administrative units, which saw budget cuts of more than 3 percent. In 2018, the UO also reduced spending $4.5 million through a 1 percent reduction in administrative general fund spending and other budget cutting efforts. In 2017, the institution went through additional rounds of budget cuts, both on the administrative and academic sides. The impact of these and other prior budget cuts can be observed in the university’s current staffing levels, which are low when compared to other AAU peers across the country. The latest data shows that the UO operates with a teaching faculty/student ratio that is approximately 79 percent of the peer institution average and a staff/student ratio that is 62 percent of the peer average.
25. why has the UO lost so many international students?
A number of factors have been driving budget challenges at the UO over the last few years. One contributing issue is a national trend connected to a drop in international enrollment among institutions of higher education. It is difficult to pinpoint all the things that are driving that trend—it includes U.S. foreign policy, slowing economies in Asia, competition from foreign universities, and the absence of programs such as engineering that appeal to many international students—but it is clear that the issue has been more acute at the University of Oregon than at some other institutions. From 2016-2019, international enrollment at the UO dropped by almost 1,500 students, representing a reduction of more than $45 million in recurring tuition revenue.