A state commission Thursday rejected the University of Oregon’s plan to raise in-state tuition by more than 10 percent. The U of O says this is a tremendous setback as it grapples with less state funding and higher costs.
Under Oregon law, public universities can’t raise tuition by more than 5% without state approval. The U of O Board of Trustees in March approved a 10.6% tuition increase for resident undergraduates. Quinn Haaga is president of the Associated Students of the U of O. Even with the tuition increase, the University has a $9 million shortfall and is making cuts to faculty, Haaga said.
“And then I’m also sitting on the president’s ad hoc advisory committee for making the actual cuts at the University,” Haaga said. “And, one of my favorite instructors that I’ve ever had is actually not returning next year as a result of these cuts. So, for me it’s just very real.”
State funding for higher education is flat in the governor’s proposed budget — which amounts to a reduction. The U of O says it’s facing increased costs of $25 million. The commission also rejected a tuition increase at Portland State University.
UO President Michael Schill sent this letter Friday afternoon:
Dear University of Oregon community members,
The Higher Education Coordinating Commission’s decision yesterday to reject the University of Oregon’s tuition plan is disappointing and creates uncertainty on our campus. If it stands, we will be forced to make even deeper cuts at the UO than are already anticipated, including cuts that will likely affect student support services, academic programs, and jobs. While we would like the HECC to reconsider its vote, we are already evaluating additional budget reduction steps that can be taken if this decision holds and the state does not provide additional support for public higher education.
No one wants to increase tuition, but the university is left with little choice given that tuition is the UO’s main source of revenue after decades of declining state support. Prior to the HECC’s vote, the UO’s tuition plan would have required more than $8 million in budget reductions next year, which would come on top of more than $6 million in cuts made in the previous fiscal year. I have steadfastly expressed my view that we will try to shield the academic part of our university from the impact of this year’s budget cuts, but if we are forced to limit our tuition increase to less than 5 percent, then that aspiration will likely be impossible.
In the face of cost-drivers that institutions do not control — including retirement and health benefit costs — Oregon’s public universities have been clear that significant additional state support for higher education is necessary to keep tuition increases low and to maintain critical student support services. State legislators still have the opportunity this session to approve a higher-education budget that prioritizes Oregon students and their families and makes the proposed tuition increase at the UO and other institutions unnecessary.
The state of Oregon deserves a world-class research institution like the UO.. The HECC’s decision to overturn a tuition plan that was reached through months of inclusive campus engagement and careful deliberation by our institutional Board of Trustees, however, threatens our ability to deliver on that promise for all Oregonians. We will continue to work with students, faculty, staff, and alumni to make the case in Salem that cutting higher-education funding and usurping campus independence will lead to untenable outcomes for the UO and all of higher education in Oregon.
As we have said repeatedly, the UO stands ready and willing to provide HECC commissioners with the information they need to reconsider their decision about tuition on our campus. This situation is very fluid and time is of the essence, given that the fiscal year starts on July 1, but you have my commitment that we will communicate with the campus community as we hear more. I appreciate your patience and understanding.
Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law
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