UO President Michael Schill stresses accessibility to higher education in lecture

University of Oregon President Michael Schill gave a lecture on Tuesday addressing the affordability of college for various groups of students. The presentation — “Access and Higher Education” — focused on low-income students, first-generation students and underrepresented minorities.

“Kids who are born today to different families of different circumstances should not necessarily be guaranteed the same income or outcome,” Schill said in his opening statement. “Instead, we aspire to the principle that they should have the same opportunity to achieve economic and social mobility.”

The president highlighted research that showed six-year graduation rates for all American universities, which demonstrated that minority groups and students whose parents did not go to college were less likely to graduate. However, he noted that financial affordability was not the only cause of college performance between different demographics.

“The deck is stacked against [underrepresented minority students]. Many of our primary and secondary schools, particularly those disproportionately serving low-income and underrepresented populations and neighborhoods, are failing our students,” Schill said. “When students go to college, they often begin the race with a hobbled foot.”

Schill offered three solutions. He emphasized the importance of financial aid; engaging students so they will “tie themselves to friends, faculty and advisers;” and prioritizing effective advising and counseling.

Rather than free or lower tuition, Schill proposed “targeted investments.”

Schill referenced last October, when he put $17 million worth of investments in the effort of improving graduation rates by 10 percent in five years. It was dubbed “The Oregon Commitment.” Its biggest impact was expanding Pathway Oregon, as well as introducing an early intervention advising program for all students, modeled from “what was learned from Pathway Oregon.”

This plan does not come without a cost. When asked about tuition, Schill said he expects a “moderate rise.” He pointed to the fact that the state of Oregon only devotes seven percent of subsidies to the UO.

“I believe in treating our students with complete honesty and transparency,” Schill said. “You can expect me to recommend to the board a significant tuition increase – not astronomically more than it was last year.”

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