To the Board and staff of the Oregon Community Foundation: Seize this opportunity! Act as boldly as you can! Go for the biggest impact! Go for change!
The late Fred Fields has given an estimated $150 million to the Oregon Community Foundation for use in funding the art and education. From the Oregonian article “Oregon Community Fund receives historic $150 million bequest from businessman Fred Fields” by D. K. Row (here):
The Oregon Community Foundation served up some historic news at its annual luncheon Wednesday at the Oregon Convention Center: The creation of a new $150 million fund using the largest single gift in its 39-year history.
The creation of the fund in honor of Fred Fields, the no-nonsense Oregon businessman and philanthropist who died in December at 88, will reverberate across the entire state for years, possibly decades.
Fields, who had never before given to the foundation and did not hint that such a landmark gift was coming before he died, left the bequest with unusually wide-open instructions to the foundation: Use it to fund the arts and education in Oregon.
Max Williams, the foundation's president and chief executive officer, says the sheer size of the bequest and Fields' open instructions means the foundation will have to think carefully how to distribute the money for the biggest impact.
If the OCF wants to have the “biggest impact,” doing something strategic, transformational, imaginative, and globally significant, rather than just sprinkling all that money to non-profits across Oregon, they could spend about $42 million to fund two twelve year programs to send high school students to China: one program would send high school students to China for a month in the summer, the other program would create and supplement public high school study abroad program funding to send high school students to China for a school year.
First, it now costs about $4,000 to send a high school student to China for four weeks in the summer. At least two Oregon connected programs offer such programs. Education, Travel and Culture offers a twenty-three day China experience for $2,500 plus airfare (about $1,500) (here). The NW China Council promotes the twenty-five day summer Chinese language program on Mount Lushan in Jiangxi Province for $2,200 plus airfare ($1,500) (here).
Here is a spreadsheet budget forecast of a twelve year summer in china for high school students program. It phases in the number of students. Its costs increase 3% per year. Total estimated costs to send 7,260 Oregon high school students to China for four-week summer experiences is $36,586,505.
Second, a variety of study abroad organizations offer a high school year in China. Currently, as far as I know, the lowest fees for a high school year in China are offered by ASSE’s (here). Their fees are $7,575 (same for Taiwan and $7,260 for Hong Kong), which cover tuition, room and board with a family and international transportation.
Currently, neither the state nor any local school district in Oregon pays for any student to study abroad. I think they have the authority to do so using State School Funds under current state laws, rules, and regulations. The following twelve year budget forecasts for a statewide China high school year abroad program that starts with a per pupil cost of $8,500. It asks local school districts (or state government) to pay 90% of their per pupil State School Fund allocation (90% * $6,000 = $5,400) and the Oregon Community Foundation to pay the rest ($3,100 to start, then increasing by 3% per year). Oregon Community Foundations estimated costs to send 1,395 Oregon high school students to China for a school year each is $5,452,455.
Nothing else the Oregon Community Foundation could do with its $150 million could have anywhere near the impact of these two programs.
I am used to others not appreciating the global historical situation we are now in with respect to the rise of China, and Asia more generally. But the Board and staff of the Oregon Community Foundation should and, as a small group, are in the unique position of being able to make global history. I hope that in fifty years when they look back on the decisions they made on spending the $150 million bequest that they will have no regrets.
Back in 2006, State Representative Dennis Richardson and I wrote in our proposal “Developing the China Connection Through Education” (here, p.11):
We as Oregonians can step forward, act boldly and with vision. Our children and their children will live in a very different world. We need to help them create their future. There are many contemporary crises (the Middle East, North Korea, terrorists, pandemics) but the central strategic and security issue of the 21st century will be the emergence of China as a world power and how the United States and China relate to each other. If these two great powers can get along, many other problems are solvable. If not, nuclear war and societal chaos are not impossible. If we fail to act as boldly as we can-- breaking a few educational, geo-political and funding mindsets—-future generations will stand in wonder at our failure. History sets hard standards and will not be kind to us or to our children if we fail. We in Oregon have an historic opportunity to act on the stage of world history. Few get such an opportunity. With vision, resolution and cooperation, let us seize this opportunity and meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.
To the Board and staff of the Oregon Community Foundation: Seize this opportunity! Act as boldly as you can! Go for the biggest impact!