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State Board Approves UO’s 10.6 Percent Tuition Increase

At its May 25 meeting, the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission granted the University of Oregon’s proposal to increase its 2017-2018 tuition rate by 10.6 percent, or $945 per year.

Since HECC initially blocked the school’s rate-increase proposal on May 11, UO has worked closely with the commissioners to move its plan forward, UO President Michael Schill said at the meeting. The May 25 approval came on a 7-1 vote.

“I am extremely grateful to the commissioners for reversing their initial decision on our tuition plan,” Schill said in a campus-wide email announcement.

The increase, supported by the outgoing ASUO president Quinn Haaga and the incoming UO Senate president, gained momentum with a strong turnout of staff and administrators at the meeting in Salem.

UO estimates that, without the tuition increase, it will face a $14 million deficit. The existing deficit of $8.5 million has already affected UO’s programs and non-tenure faculty. UO cut 75 non-tenure faculty in March and its Substance Abuse Prevention Programs last month. Haaga says UO now has only about two-thirds of the average faculty and staff found at other similar institutions.

“Through multiple-week waiting periods to schedule counseling appointments, larger class sizes and inconsistent advising that has at times led us down the wrong academic paths, we fear that these issues and many more will increase at an exponential rate next year, further disadvantaging all students, especially those that cannot afford to take an extra term or even extra class,” Haaga’s statement says.

“Unfortunately, we must work with the financial situation as it exists and ask students to pay more for their education,“ incoming UO Senate President Chris Sinclair writes. “We owe our students robust services that help them on their path to graduation [and] to have high-quality instructors and access to research that expands knowledge.”

But students continue to plead for financial relief. Incoming ASUO President Amy Schenk, who has been advocating for affordable higher education for three years, says it’s “disheartening” to see tuition keep increasing.

“Increasing the price to attend the university has not only priced out students from attending, but forced those who stay to often choose between paying for school and paying for necessities, such as food or even housing,” Schenk says. “This direct toll and financial burden of tuition increases that students face have gotten quite unreasonable.”

Schenk says many UO students couldn’t attend the meeting because of midterms, and since the meeting was called last Thursday, ASUO has had no time to organize.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown wasn’t at the meeting but urged HECC not to approve tuition increases above 5 percent unless the schools show significant evidence of searching for alternatives before raising tuition.

Commissioners acknowledged approving the increase is a hard decision, but they did so due to the critical services at risk.

Schenk gave a list of demands for UO in her statement, including a cap of 5 percent tuition increase if public schools secure $100 million in state funds and a cap of 5 percent tuition increase next year. She quoted a statement from Schill committing to “tangible and measurable steps” to proactively prevent tuition hikes.

Schill says although UO has identified $4.5 million in cuts, “we have many difficult decisions ahead.”

“We are up to the challenge, and I remain ever focused on making the University of Oregon the very best it can be,” Schill says in the email.