Higher Education board approves severance for departing chancellor

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon University System will pay ousted chancellor George Pernsteiner for a year after he leaves the job under a severance agreement approved today.

The State Board of Higher Education approved the agreement in a unanimous vote. Pernsteiner said he's stepping down as chancellor because some board members wanted new leadership as the state redesigns the education system.

Under the negotiated agreement, Pernsteiner will stay in the job until March 1, then work for one month on a project studying options for sharing services among the seven universities. After he runs out of vacation time in May, he'll continue to collect his $295,000 salary for 12 months unless he accepts another job, and the state will continue paying for his health insurance.

The agreement prohibits Pernsteiner from lobbying the Legislature or publicly advocating against the board's public positions on education policy.

The chancellor's contract was last renewed less than a year ago and continues through June 2014.

Pernsteiner, who was at the board meeting, touted progress in higher education during his eight-year tenure, including higher enrollment, improved graduation rates and more rural students seeking a degree.

"None of those things are accidents," Pernsteiner said.

Pernsteiner, 64, led the university system during a period of increasing enrollment, declining state support and rapidly rising tuition.

The transition comes at a time when the University of Oregon and Portland State University are pressing for more autonomy. The state's seven public universities also are trying to meet Gov. John Kitzhaber's ambitious "40-40-20" plan to significantly boost the number of students who graduate from college. By 2025, the state wants to see 40 percent of students attain at least a four-year college degree and another 40 percent earn an associate's degree or other career credential.

Kitzhaber has also pitched a plan to create a new state agency, the Department of Post-Secondary Education, that would further diminish the role of the chancellor's office.

"I think that because of all the uncertainty that surrounded those things, that the board was interested in having different leadership going forward," Pernsteiner told reporters after the meeting.

— Jonathan Cooper, Associated Press

Share This Story