After 8 years, Pernsteiner resigns as Ore. universities chancellor

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Chancellor George Pernsteiner announced Friday that he is resigning from the Oregon University System after more than eight years on the job.

Pernsteiner did not provide a reason for his March 1 departure in a statement issued through the university system. Last March, Pernsteiner's contract was extended for two years.

A spokeswoman from the Oregon University System said that George Pernsteiner was unavailable Friday.

The resignation followed negotiations between Pernsteiner and the state Board of Higher Education, said Tim Raphael, a spokesman for Gov. John Kitzhaber. The governor was aware of the discussions but was not involved in them, Raphael said.

Board President Matt Donegan said leadership change is inevitable, and he believes this is the right time. Pernsteiner has the university system "well-positioned," he said, but a new leader is needed at a time when it is embarking on new strategies, such as online learning.

"There was no single event or anything like that," Donegan said. "It's something that a lot of board members have been discussing."

The board will vote on a separation agreement with Pernsteiner at its Monday meeting. Pernsteiner, who turns 65 in June, was scheduled to earn a base salary of $295,128 from June 2013 through June 2014.

Pernsteiner led the university system during a stressful 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 are also trying to meet Kitzhaber's ambitious "40-40-20" plan to significantly boost the number of students who graduate from college. By 2025, the state expects 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.

Pernsteiner's influence was reduced in late May, when Kitzhaber chose Rudy Crew to become the state's first chief education officer. The former chancellor of the New York City Department of Education was handed unprecedented power to shape Oregon public education, from preschool to university. Crew did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

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

Donegan said the board will choose an interim chancellor while watching what the Legislature does with Kitzhaber's request and other issues involving higher education.

"Once we get a better sense of where all this going, then we can draw up a job description for the long term," Donegan said.


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.