Oregon universities chancellor Pernsteiner resigns

Of the Associated Press

PORTLAND — 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 Pernsteiner was unavailable Friday.

Pernsteiner's influence was diminished in late May, when Gov. John 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.

The resignation followed negotiations between Pernsteiner and the higher education board, said Tim Raphael, a spokesman for the governor. Kitzhaber was aware of the discussions but was not involved in them, Raphael said.

“The governor appreciates his service to the state and all he's done for higher education in Oregon,” Raphael said.

The state Board of Higher Education 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 state's seven public universities 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 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.

“The state has reached a critical transition point, making this an opportune time for a change of leadership,” Matt Donegan, president of the higher education board, said in a statement.

Board vice president Jill Eiland said finding an interim chancellor is an “immediate priority.”

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