OSPIRG was established by students first at the University of Oregon in 1971.
In the process of promoting the public interest, we’ve created learning opportunities for thousands of students each year through class presentations and campus events. We have trained thousands of Oregonians in citizenship skills and catapulted many into local, statewide and national leadership positions: from 1000 Friends of Oregon founder Henry Richmond; to Citizens Utility Board Director Bob Jenks; to Organizing for America’s Ivan Frishberg; to Northwest Mothers’ Milk Bank Chair Merriah Fairchild.
In the 70s, 80s and 90s, student-led research and public education played important roles in creating Oregon’s land use system and the bottle bill; and establishing consumer protections such as the lemon law, fair electric utility rates, and protections from misleading payday lending practices.
With the Oregon Student Association, we jointly pioneered a youth voter mobilization model that is now used across the country; OSPIRG volunteers and staff themselves have helped over 50,000 students register to vote since 2004.
The OSPIRG Renters’ Guide helps hundreds of tenants – both student and nonstudent – clarify and advocate for their rights each year. Our annual Toy Safety report is covered by most media markets in Oregon and has prompted federal officials to recall numerous unsafe toys over the years. OSPIRG’s ongoing partnership with the Lane County Food bank helps channel the energy and resources of the campus to help many in our community with urgent survival needs.
Our investigation into the high cost of textbooks sparked Congressional investigations into the practices of the textbook industry. Our policy ideas to incentivize faculty to choose cheaper textbooks, such as requiring textbook publishers to disclose their prices to professors, have been incorporated into federal and state law.
Our investigations into health insurance prices identified numerous areas of waste. In many cases, state officials have agreed, cutting over $150 million in waste from premiums since 2010. The State of Oregon now contracts with OSPIRG Foundation to provide ongoing analysis of major health insurance rate hike proposals.
Our research exposed previously-secret details of over $600 million in state corporate tax subsidies, and uncovered a way to keep $40 million a year in Oregon that otherwise would be hidden in offshore tax havens.
Our advocacy brings the voices of student and non-student Oregonians into the halls of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, now working to help students and consumers better navigate the financial marketplace.
Our most important accomplishment, however, is the direct learning opportunities these projects and campaigns have created for the student body – both for students who get directly involved in the program and for the campus at large.