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Got a grand? Undergraduates will pay over $1000 more to attend UO next year

Annual tuition will cost $945 more for all undergraduate students next year.

The decision, which amounts to a 10.6 percent increase for residents and 3 percent for non-residents, was made by the Board of Trustees during a Thursday meeting.

With the increase, many students are forced to reevaluate their position at the university. Some have to decide if they can afford the greater cost of attending University of Oregon.

“It’s hard not to be scared when you’re poor,” freshman Maria Slade said. “I’ve kind of been freaking out.”

Slade chose to attend UO because her family qualified for the need-based Pathway Oregon scholarship, which pays for 100 percent of a recipient’s tuition. Two weeks into her first term, she was told her award had been reevaluated and she no longer qualified for the scholarship — a situation that can occur when a student’s family income goes up.

(Noah McGraw/Emerald)

“I was panicking then, two weeks into school, that I was going to have to drop out or transfer,” Slade said. Her dad convinced her to stay. Then she got President Michael Schill’s email announcing a potential 10.6 percent increase to her tuition.

“It’s just a lot,” Slade said. “My dad told me that he’s going to work till he’s 70 in order to pay for my education. I hated that.”

Slade isn’t sure if she’ll come back to UO after spring break.

The Board of Trustees is a group of 14 alumni that act as the governing body of the university. Outside the meeting, held at the Ford Alumni Center, around 50 students, staff and faculty rallied chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, tuition hikes have got to go!” and, “Hey Schill, we’re no fools. We won’t let you ruin our schools!”

The protesters encouraged the board not to increase tuition during a public comment section of the meeting.

“Within Eugene, the University of Oregon does not represent hope. It does not represent the ability to achieve greatness,” UO student Charlie Landeros told the board. “What it represents is the unattainable symbolism of capitalism that continues to oppress marginalized communities such as the poor.”

Landeros is a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and receives benefits from the GI Bill. “I have to wonder if the University of Oregon is here for the poor, is here for people of color,” he said. “If it is, then why is the only reason I can be here because I had to fight through two wars? … I had to see my friends die in the battlefield for me to be here. And I wonder if that is going to continue to be the standard for poor people to attend the University of Oregon.”

Check out our video on student reactions to the tuition hike here. 

The tuition increase comes as the university faces a projected $25 million rise in costs for the 2018 fiscal year, according to reports from the Tuition and Fees Advisory Board.

TFAB, a committee comprised of students, faculty and administrators, conducted research to determine the tuition increase. TFAB met seven times between November and the trustee vote. They researched information on the current budget, potential increases, comparative schools and student need. TFAB recommended the increase to President Michael Schill, who in turn proposed the increase to the Board of Trustees in early February.

TFAB had major concerns about the university’s increased costs for 2018. According to TFAB’s report, contributing factors to rising costs include increases in faculty and staff salaries and wages, university investments, medical costs and retirement payouts.

(Kelly Kondo/Emerald)

There will still be an $8.8 million deficit after the tuition increase. Schill plans to cover this with mandatory fee increases, new fees and staff cuts. Mandatory fees will increase 12.11 percent in total. A new $50 technology fee will go toward “critical, recurring investments in technology to keep campus running,” according to board meeting materials. The faculty union recently alleged that approximately 75 non-tenure track faculty will be cut next year. Schill disputed the number.

One reason the university is struggling to run in the black is because of a lack of funding from the state. Between 2000 and 2014, Oregon state funding per student for higher education decreased by 51 percent, the 4th highest decrease over that timespan in the country, according to Urban Industry, a Washington, D.C. research firm. In 2015, however, the Oregon Legislature voted to increase funding by 26 percent.

In fall 2016, the presidents of Oregon’s seven public universities sent an open letter to Governor Kate Brown asking for a $100 million increase in state funding. Brown did not accommodate the presidents’ requests.

UO is not the only school hurting from a lack of state funding. Southern Oregon University predicted a 12 percent increase in tuition next year.

“I actually agree with the students,” President Schill told the Board of Trustees on Thursday. “They shouldn’t have to pay a 10.6 percent increase. I’m hoping the state will see that.”

ASUO shares the president’s position and is directing focus on trying to advocate the state to increase funding.

Tuition will increase less with additional support from the state. The TFAB proposal includes a tiered system based on state funding. For example, if the university gets an additional $100 million from the state, tuition would increase 5.1 percent for in-state students, instead of 10.6 percent.

ASUO External Vice President Natalie Fisher is a member of TFAB. She believes the increase is an unfortunate necessity. “All of these things need to be paid for but they shouldn’t be paid for with tuition dollars,” Fisher said. “I’m not upset with the university. I know a lot of students are and that’s totally valid. But I think we have a bigger fight, and a different fight, and it’s with the state government, not with the university.”

UO has organized a lobby day at the capitol in Salem on March 9 called “Ducks in the Capitol.” The goal is to convince the state to increase funding for higher education. President Schill told the board he would attend the event. Shuttles are provided and will leave UO at 6:45 a.m.

All board members agreed that a lack of state funding was a major driving force behind the tuition increase, but not all agreed on the proposed plan.

“Within Eugene, the University of Oregon does not represent hope. It does not represent the ability to achieve greatness … What it represents is the unattainable symbolism of capitalism that continues to oppress marginalized communities such as the poor.” – UO student and veteran Charlie Landeros

Kurt Willcox, the Board of Trustees member representing non-faculty staff at the university, was the only member who voted against the tuition rise. Willcox didn’t say the increase was unnecessary, but pointed toward the disproportional increase for in-state students as his primary reservation.

“I do think we have a very clear obligation to provide Oregon students with access to an affordable education,” Willcox said. “And I think we can do better for our in-state students than what this proposal provides.”

Despite the many factors that make tuition increase a complex issue, for students like Slade, the bottom line is the question of affording another year, or even another term, at this university.

“I know my parents are going to do what they can to keep me in this school,” Slade said. “But I’m not down for that. I don’t want my dad working till he’s 70.”

Slade ultimately feels unsupported by a university she has already paid thousands of dollars.

“[UO] doesn’t support students who can’t necessarily pay to go here out of pocket, and doesn’t advocate for us strongly enough at the state level,” she said. “There’s no safety net whatsoever.”

Emma Henderson contributed reporting.

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Noah McGraw

Noah McGraw

Noah is the 2016-17 Senior News Editor at the Emerald. His earliest journalistic influences were Tom Wolfe, Eric Schlosser and Batman. He loves '70s comics, '80s action movies and '90s music.