Ballot Measures, Bonds and Colleges

Governance change rejected in North Dakota and new student aid fund nixed in Oregon. Elsewhere, voters approved bond measures sought by higher education.


November 5, 2014

Voters in North Dakota on Tuesday rejected a plan to replace the state's higher education board, and voters in Oregon rejected a plan to allow state debt to be used to create a fund to support student aid.

While 2014 saw electoral wins for many economic conservatives, voters in some states and districts approved bonds for higher education facilities and other projects.

In North Dakota, Measure 3 would have replaced the State Board of Higher Education, whose members are part-timers appointed by the governor (similar to such boards in other states), with a new commission of three full-time, paid members of a commission, who would be appointed to four-year terms by the governor (and subject to Senate confirmation). Supporters of the shift said it would depoliticize higher education policy, while critics said it would politicize higher education policy.

North Dakota voters rejected the idea.

In Oregon, voters rejected Measure 86, which would have allowed the state to issue bonds to support a fund that would have provided scholarships to Oregon students. The debate over the measure was less about the value of student aid than over whether it was policy to issue bonds to support student aid, as opposed to for facilities, which is more common.

Indeed, voters in one Oregon county approved facilities bonds on the same ballot. The Clackamas Community College district on Tuesday approved a plan to issue $90 million in bonds for facilities. The funds will be used both to build new facilities and to modernize equipment used in training students for some career fields.

Results on other bond measures:

  • Rhode Island voters approved $125 million in bonds for engineering facilities at the University of Rhode Island.
  • In a California district, voters approved $275 million in bonds for Cuesta College.
  • Lee County, North Carolina voters approved $23 million in bonds for projects at Central Carolina Community College.
  • In Cabarrus County, North Carolina, voters approved $9 million in bonds for an Advanced Technology Center at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.
  • In Texas, voters in Harris County approved -- by a wide margin -- a $485 million bond proposal. The funds will pay for 686,000 square feet of new instructional and support buildings, and the costs of renovating 362,000 square feet of existing facilities.
  • In Maine, voters approved an $8 million bond to build a new laboratory for animal and plant disease control, to be administered by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service.

One bond measure on which the outcome is too close to call is for $574 million for the North Orange Community College District. As of late Tuesday, 54.9 percent of voters in the California district were approving the measure, but it must receive 55 percent to pass.

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