Sustainable funding for sustainable discovery and outreach

How are OSU’s statewide public service programs funded?

Funding is somewhat different for each of the three Statewide Programs. In Extension’s case, “cooperative extension” emphasizes a shared services model with a three-way partnership of federal, state, and local partners, each leveraging the other. In 22 counties in Oregon, citizens have passed local service districts to dedicate a proportion of their tax dollars to support county-based Extension programs. Other counties provide annual appropriations from their general funds for operating costs. In addition, OSU Extension partners with public and private organizations to multiply the value of program funding.

In contrast, the Forest Research Lab receives a one-to-one match of its state funding from an industry-supported timber harvest tax. Both the Forest Research Lab and the Agricultural Experiment Station use state funds to leverage competitive grants, primarily from federal agencies, commodity commissions, and private gifts and contracts. AES faculty, for example, have succeeded in leveraging state funds to secure an additional $63 million in funds for critical research.

The statewide programs’ budgets are separate from OSU’s education and general fund budget, which means that cuts to these programs cannot be offset by student tuition.

However, statewide faculty are members of college faculty and many individuals have Extension and research responsibilities along with teaching appointments. Because they share responsibilities for outreach, learning, and discovery, their budgets are integrated. That means that a reduction in funding for the statewide programs also reduces the budgets of the academic colleges and diminishes their capacity for teaching and research.

What are the trends in funding the statewide programs?

Since 2000, state funding for the Statewide Public Service Programs has fluctuated from an 8 percent increase to a 15 percent decrease, as calculated in nominal dollars (see figure 2). However, when adjusted based on the Portland Consumer Price Index, an overall downward trend is apparent. Since 2000, funding for the Statewide Programs has decreased by 25 percent in real dollars.

Figure 2. Since 2000, Oregon General Fund support for the Statewide Programs has declined by 25 percent.


What are the strategies for advancing statewide research and Extension?

The Statewide Programs have adopted several strategies in response to the decline in state funding. Extension’s new regional programming consolidates county administration into fewer regions. This streamlines delivery of educational programs, although fewer faculty are spread over larger geographic areas and more program assignments. As a result, some lower-priority programs have been eliminated. Local funds, grants, and selective fee structures have backfilled some critical programs. Increased collaboration with community colleges and K-12 is creating new opportunities through Oregon Open Campus. Engagement online is encouraged with web-based Extension education that offers 24/7 access to resources and programs, such as Ask an Expert, an online social media Q-and-A that provides research-based answers to questions from across the state.

The Agricultural Experiment Station has been increasingly successful in leveraging funds from industry, federal grants, and contracts.  In 2000, AES state funding was leveraged by a factor of 1.2 with the addition of grants and contracts. In 2012, that leveraging had increased to 2.5. Local support (tax districts, voluntary commodity assessments, increased industry support) has helped keep branch stations operating. Revenues from sale of products and services provide some additional revenue. Private philanthropy has also increased dramatically since 2000. Some consolidation of programs occurred and is continuing, and low priority areas of work have been eliminated.

All three Statewide Programs are very successful at leveraging state funds, so that 1 state dollar currently brings in more than 2 additional dollars from grants and contracts (see table 1).


Table 1. Statewide programs leverage financial capacity, 2011
Programs State appropriation Other Expenditures Leverage ratio
Extension $18,357,000 $17,110,000 0.93
FRL $2,792,000 $18,961,000 6.79
AES $25,379,000 $63,418,000 2.5
Combined $46,528,000 $99,489,000 2.14


Figure 3. Revenue generated from grants, contracts, and other sources has grown to more than half of the total budgets for OSU’s Statewide Programs.


Revenue generation between 2008 and 2012.


Table 2. OSU's Statewide Public Service Programs leverage both financial and human capital.
Human capital
OSU Extension faculty 177
Trained Extension community volunteers 14,064
Learners engaged in Extension education 2,040,872
Financial capital
State funding for SWPS, FY 12 $46,528,000
External grants and other leveraged funding $99,489,000
Total dollars $146,017,000


Budget realities for the 21st century

The Statewide Programs will continue to fulfill their mission to provide programs that meet the greatest public need. They will continue to successfully secure outside funding. However, the trend to replace decreasing state dollars by increasing leveraged outside funds, although successful up to now, cannot continue forever. These programs depend on state funding to leverage greater capacity for problem-solving and discovery. Without state funding, this leverage capacity is lost.

Experiential learning opportunities for students are now being developed at off-campus OSU facilities and with statewide OSU faculty. This is possible because these faculty and programs are fully integrated into campus-based colleges and into the learning and research organization of OSU. Reduced state funding for the Statewide Programs also reduces the capacity for campus-based teaching and research.

The Statewide Programs will continue to be increasingly successful at securing outside funding. However, these grants and contracts reflect priorities of specific funding agencies that do not always align with state-based needs and priorities. Statewide Programs require a base state budget to maintain their public service mission of improving the lives and livelihoods of Oregonians.