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For Oregon to have a bright future, our young people must have the chance to succeed. College is how the torch of opportunity passes to the next generation. But the light from that torch is fading as divestment from public universities causes suffocating levels of student loan debt.

Student loan debt increased more than 60 percent between 2005 and 2014, and now Oregon students graduate with an average of $26,000 in outstanding loans. This increase is the result of our state's divestment from public universities. Oregon provides 44 percent less funding per student than the national average, and students are paying for the shortfall with higher tuition. To make sure the torch of opportunity isn't snuffed out by student loan debt, we need the Oregon State Legislature to reinvest in public universities so tuition can be more affordable. Let's light the way to a brighter future by showing our state that higher education is a good investment. — Kristi Wright, Ashland

I've been looking for a way to feel hopeful about climate change. Recently I participated in climate related activities with five different groups in five days.

I'm amazed and heartened by how many different people are now moving in the direction of building a healthier planet where seven generations from now there will be enough clean air and water to sustain life on the planet. It is going to take many of us, doing many different things, to accomplish this. I especially would like to call on our elected representatives — President Obama, Rep. Greg Walden and Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, and our state representatives — to look at the big picture: to address putting a price on carbon pollution to level the playing field so clean, renewable energy has a chance to be developed as quickly as necessary.

Even ExxonMobil has a plan for a carbon tax as the fastest way to clean up the carbon pollution in our atmosphere! Individually, we need to do our share with conservation and buying local, but it will not be enough without bigger steps, which only governments and corporations can do. It is a long haul, but the future will come one way or another. I actually had fun hanging out with a great bunch of optimistic people. Pessimism never works anyway. — Susan Bizeau, Southern Oregon Chapter of Citizen Climate Lobby, Talent

As an emeritus professor, researcher and administrator in the biological sciences retired from a major university, I am appalled that an institution calling itself a university, supported in part by the taxpayers of Oregon, would even consider scrapping its physics department.

Only bureaucrats wholly ignorant of natural-science requirements could make such a suggestion. For instance, without physics courses, the degrees of students majoring in chemistry and biological sciences will be of little to no value.

Graduates in those areas will not be competitive nor qualified for admission to graduate programs, or medical, veterinary, dental and engineering schools. Instead, they will be subjected to the additional expense of post-baccalaureate programs to make up for the physics deficiency.

If the United States is to remain competitive in an ever more technical world, then schools like SOU must take up the challenge of educating our future leaders. The subject of physics is essential to a quality science education. — H. Bernard Hartman, PhD, Medford