State Treasurer Ted Wheeler is gearing up a campaign for his Oregon Opportunity Initiative, a college scholarship program he's proposing for 2014.

Lawmakers referred the measure to voters earlier this year. Wheeler proposes to use the state's bonding authority to borrow up to $500 million, which would then be invested as the state currently invests public employee pension funds. Wheeler's hope is that investment returns would exceed the cost of borrowing and that the returns from the invested funds could fund scholarships.

Wheeler's rationale is compelling—Oregon ranks 47th in among states in its financial commitment to higher education. But his approach carries risks. As WW reported earlier, some investment experts are skeptical of that approach, because although the long-term averages suggest it's a good idea, a lot can go wrong in the short-term.

Nonetheless, institutions and wealthy individual donors are starting to pony up for the cost of running a campaign. In recent days, the Opportunity Initiative reported a $5,000 contribution from Mary Pape, whose family owns heavy equipment dealerships; $2,500 from The Standard, a Portland insurance company; $2,500 from former Fred Meyer CEO Ken Thrasher; and $2,500 from investor Peter Stott.

The campaign has raised a total of $30,000 so far.