UO prepares students for tuition increase with tuition transparency panel

The University of Oregon held a public forum regarding rising tuition costs in order to increase its transparency with the public. The forum was designed to allow students to speak with members of the Tuition and Fees Advisory Board, telling them how they think rising costs should be addressed and how it affects students.

The agenda for the evening covered the many reasons as to why, according to UO administration, a tuition raise is necessary. Jamie Moffit, vice president for finance and administration, opened the forum by discussing the university’s main revenue source: tuition.

“Over 80 percent of it [Education and General fund] is funded by tuition. I wish that weren’t the case,” Moffit said. “I wish we had more state support and other support but that is just not the reality. We try to get other funds from other places so we try get a lot of donors to give us support but that’s really a small percentage compared to the schools and colleges that come from the E&G budget.”

Moffit elaborated more on where the funds from tuition are actually going. Over 80 percent of funds go straight into people; meaning it goes to salaries.

“So when you have 80 percent of your budget invested in people,” Moffit said, “and those are the costs that year over year tend to go up and then 80 percent of your budget is funded with tuition, that causes a very difficult situation.”

According to data collected by UO, non-resident students paid 3.5 times more in tuition costs than Oregon residents did for Fiscal Year 2016. When that figure is broken down, non-residents paid 62.5 percent of the university’s total revenue. In dollars that is over $280 million. Residents paid 23.1 percent, totaling $104 million, while the state covered the remaining $64.8 million.

Brad Shelton, professor in mathematics, spoke after Moffit to elaborate on the purpose of the higher priced tuition.

“Non-resident students are paying three and a half times as much to attend the university as residents are,” Shelton said. “There are good reasons for that, but it is a reality that you have to keep in mind. If our non-resident tuition gets too high, students will start to choose to go to other universities, so we are very aware of where we are priced as a non-resident university.”

Fiscal year 2004 had the state covering over 40 percent of UO’s total revenue, significantly higher than fiscal year 2016 when the state covered less than 15 percent. This lack in education funding means that students will be making up the cost.

Students are not necessarily getting more for their higher tuition costs either. The university ranks below average for how many faculty members are available per student, with 66 faculty members for every 1,000 students. This is below the average of 94 for every 1,000 students. For non-instructional staff, the average is 186 staff for every 1,000 students and UO provides 113 per every 1,000 students. This is a major concern that the university is attempting to address.

In an attempt to be as transparent as possible and provide easily read information to the public, UO created a website detailing the essential information regarding tuition increases.

“The UO anticipates a total shortfall of $27.5 million between the proposed drop in state funding and another $25 million in projected cost increases, many of which are outside the university’s control,” the tuition website states. “The current budget realities mean it will be very difficult to keep the tuition increase below 5 percent.”

In an attempt to balance the budget for upcoming years, UO decided not to renew contracts for certain employees. This drastic shift in the budget for the university is attributed to the lack of financial support the college has been getting from the state over the past decade.

UO lobby day is March 9, a day for students and faculty to come to the capitol in Salem and lobby for increased state funding. The administration encouraged students at the forum to participate more in such events, saying that students and faculty coming together is the best way to ensure increased funding for the university.

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Miguel Sanchez-Rutledge

Miguel Sanchez-Rutledge