Guaranteed tuition plan raises more concerns with Board of Trustees
On Oct. 28 the first open forum with the Tuition and Fees Advisory introduced the possible implementation of a guaranteed tuition plan. Now, Board of Trustees members question if the plan will better students or the university.
Vice President for Enrollment, Roger Thompson says the biggest advantages of implementing this program are that it provides a realistic four-year cost for families and students who are planning to enroll in the university, and that the buying power of scholarships will remain the same.
“We are able to talk with families honestly and ethically about the total cost of earning a degree. The risk of financial hardship moves from the student to the university,” Thompson said.
However, financial predictability creates new challenges that administrators, and possibly students, may have to face.
Jamie Moffitt, Vice President for Finance and Administration, says the university has to be willing to take on the financial risk that comes with this plan. She says the impending increase of costs for the Oregon Public Employee Retirement System and unknown university costs in the future will undoubtedly increase tuition for incoming students. The university must take responsibility to minimize that increase as much as possible so students do not bear most of the burden.
“If we hit a year where we have a dramatic cut [to the budget], we have to be willing to let our reserves drop,” Moffitt said.
Board of Trustees member Ann Curry is critical of the guaranteed tuition concept, saying that it provides a greater benefit to the university than it does to the students.
Although it does provide predictability for families with regards in tuition, Curry says that without giving students the option to opt-out from plan, the significant increases in tuition for each incoming cohort would provide the university the opportunity to “give the coffers a little more flesh.”
“We’re saying that the university is taking the risk. But the truth is […] this provides predictability and affordability to the university,” Curry said.
Allyn Ford, another Board of Trustees member, was also critical of guaranteed tuition saying that it is not the way the school should go.
Ford says it would create too many new variables that the university is not currently dealing with.
These variables include: costs for students who graduate in more or less than four years and dealing with unexpected budget cuts with fixed tuition.
Ford also says that the plan does not match the board’s mission to keep tuition increases low. He prefers a tuition plan that would guarantee a cap on tuition increases so families are not surprised by large increases like the 14.6% increase in 2009.
“What I’d like to see us do is not only impact predictability, but affordability as well,” Ford said.
An official proposal of a guaranteed tuition plan will not be introduced until March.
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