What does your tuition pay for?

Four UO students are working to help determine the cost of education for the whole student body. As members of the Tuition and Fees Advisory Board, these UO students provided their perspective on how tuition and fees should increase or decrease.

“The idea was to have a comprehensive holistic group that could provide different perspectives so that when the president and provost make recommendations to the board, they have the benefit of having an advisory group that has really thought about these issues and discussed them,” co-chair and Vice President for Finance and Administration Jamie Moffitt said about the formation of the board.

The president and provost then present their decisions to the Board of Trustees in March.

James Kress, a graduate student on the board, has learned a lot by working with the school’s budget.

“Understanding exactly how things are broken down is really the most important,” Kress said. “Because I’d never seen the breakdown before of how much money goes to wages and salary, how much has to go to health benefits, so it’s a huge game of chess.”

As an undergraduate at Boise State University, Kress was annoyed at the costs of being a student.

“I don’t think I understood the breadth of what it takes to run the university,” Kress said. “I knew there had to be costs, but seeing them broken out and how much they really are is interesting to see.” Like Kress, many undergraduates may not know or understand what their tuition and fees go towards.

“When students are paying tuition, that’s going into what’s called our education and general fund,” Moffitt said. “Those are the funds that are generally used to fund the schools and colleges, the academic programs, the administrative units that need to support the schools and colleges and then a lot of the institutional expenses.” These expenses include utility bills, leases, debt payments, salaries and other costs.

Fees, on the other hand, have specific purposes. For example, the student recreation center fee and the health fee go specifically toward the operation of those facilities on campus.

Since 2004, full-time tuition at the UO has risen from $5,570 to $9,918 in 2014. According to Moffitt, while the actual cost of delivering an education has gone up, this dramatic rise is primarily due to diminished state support.

As tuition steadily increases, the budget also accommodates for that increase by increasing the budget for financial aid. According to co-chair and Vice Provost for Budget and Planning Brad Shelton, financial aid comes from multiple sources, including the general fund. Another aspect of the budget that helps education remain affordable is required approval from the Higher Education Coordinating Commission for proposed increases in undergraduate resident tuition higher than five percent.

“So our board would not have authority on its own to set a tuition increase just for resident undergraduate students that is more than five percent, without the HECC approving it,” Moffitt said. No such restriction exists for changes in out-of-state student tuition.

Once the recommendation is made, Moffitt said that students have a chance to participate in a forum held by the provost.

“Basically that’s a point in time for the provost to be able to share what the recommendations are talk to students about it and get feedback,” Moffitt said.

Follow Francesca Fontana on Twitter: @francescamarief

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