Students have mixed responses to proposed 5.8 percent cost increase

For Jennifer Borrero, paying 5.8 percent more in tuition next year means doing with less.

“It means having to pick up another job probably or already trying to find a less expensive place to live,” Borrero said. “It means cutting back on things that you can’t really cut back on — but trying to cut costs anyway.”

The freshman already works a job in campus dining in order to help offset her education and living costs. Next year, she envisions having to increase her workweek to 20 hours, the limit for University of Oregon employed student workers, in addition to taking on another part-time job.

With increased tuition on the horizon, every penny counts.

At a meeting on Friday, the Oregon State Board of Higher Education’s Finance and Administration Committee approved UO proposals for higher tuition for review by the board in general. The 4.8 percent average cost increase across the state includes a 4.5 percent tuition increase for the UO, which will manifest itself as a 5.8 percent total increase when elevated mandatory fees are taken into account.

According to a statement made by Brad Shelton, UO vice provost for Budget and Planning, the proposed 4.5 percent proposal was the outcome of serious deliberation and compromise on the part of the UO Tuition and Fee Advisory Board. Between September and March, the panel of 12 UO members, including three students, met on a monthly basis between September and March to deliberate the most efficient and equitable tuition proposal for the upcoming year in order to submit a recommendation to the offices of the president and provost.

In the end, he said, the board came to an “absolute consensus” that a 4.5 percent increase was in the best interest of all parties involved.

“We really felt that that was the right balance between cost for the institution and cost for the students,” Shelton said while addressing the committee.

Some students feel as if any tuition increase, regardless of the compromise behind it, can have detrimental effects on the student body.

“Financially, (increased tuition) is obviously a bigger stress,” Borrero said. “But I also think that it makes students re-think college … Instead of going to college and pursuing a career, it makes people think, ‘Is it worth it?'”

Incoming ASUO President Sam Dotters-Katz attended Friday’s meeting as well. As the representative of the UO student body, he lobbied in favor of the proposed increase.

Although he recognizes that increasing tuition deals a financial blow to all students, Dotters-Katz believes that a proposed $542 annual increase for in-state students is what it takes to maintain the caliber of the UO. Among the reasons he cited at the meeting for the necessity of the increase in expenses were the need to hire more faculty and expand the curriculum to keep up with the increased student body, as well as the implementation of student-supported renovations, including that of the Student Recreation Center.

“To be clear, these are hard decisions to make. I certainly would not tell you today that any increase in costs make it easier to afford higher education, however, these decisions are not made in isolation of other considerations,” Dotters-Katz said to committee members.  “It is the official view of both the current and incoming representatives of the student body, that the tuition and fee increases in the proposal before you today are thoughtful, fair and necessary.”

Other students, including ASUO Sen. Lamar Wise, believe that instead of increasing the student burden, Oregon should be pursuing alternative funding routes for higher education. As a representative of the Oregon Student Association, one of the policies that he would prefer is a tuition freeze while the state invests more money into the higher education system.

“We want the state to re-invest in higher education, and we don’t think that increasing tuition is making school more accessible to students,” Wise said. “If we want Oregon to be a leader in higher education, (the state) needs to invest in it. What we’re asking them to do is to take responsibility.”

 Although the proposed tuition increases don’t face final review by the State Board of Higher Education until June 21, Borrero is pretty sure that they’re a done deal. As a student and a worker, she doesn’t feel like there’s much she can do but hope for tuition stability in years to come.

“I feel like it’s just something that I have to deal with,” Borrero said. “In the future I hope to see at the very least a much smaller cost increase.”

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Sami Edge

Sami Edge

Sami is the Editor In Chief of The Emerald. Former intern at Willamette Week and aspiring international investigative reporter. Swimmer, writer, dreamer, reader, thinker, explorer and drinker of strong coffee.