Will Oregon be the first state with a college trust fund?

Stefanie Botelho's picture
Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Major universities across the country maintain large endowments that not only provide financial stability, but also allow those schools to provide scholarships to worthy students in need. Should states do the same?

That’s the debate right now in Oregon, which this fall could become the first state to set up an ongoing investment trust fund for higher education. The Opportunity Initiative, a proposal on the November ballot, could change the way Oregon funds college grants. The initiative would authorize the state to issue bonds for the purpose of starting up the investment fund, which would be used solely to pay for state scholarships.

Having a dedicated fund, says State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, would take grants for higher education and vocational training out of direct competition with K-12 funding -- or any other kind of funding, for that matter. “There are always more pressing immediate financial needs,” says Wheeler, who came up with the idea for the fund and is also contemplating a gubernatorial run in 2018. “So it’s really easy to put off investments that won’t show results for another 20 years.”

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