A coalition of University of Oregon student groups have accused the Tuition & Fees Advisory Board of, in a meeting last week, rushing a vote on a proposed increase in tuition for the 2016-2017 school year.
In an email sent to the Emerald this morning, they said that some students who opposed the increase had to leave the event, which took place during the week of Jan. 25, early for class. In their absence, the TFAB voted to increase tuition by 4.7 percent for in-state students and 4.65 percent for out-of-state students.
“Our tuition dollars keep the school running, yet our voices are ignored on a daily basis,” the statement said.
The TFAB is comprised of administration, faculty, two students appointed by students and two students appointed by UO administration.
Following the meeting, an email to ASUO President Helena Schlegel stated that an open forum for all students to discuss the issue could take place on Feb. 3 at 3 p.m. However, the student groups noted that the time conflicts with students lobbying in Salem for higher education funding, as well as students who would be in class.
“This funding model of raising tuition is not stable or sustainable,” the statement said. “Operating in a non-transparent way to exclude students from vital conversations is not an acceptable way to run an institution of higher education.”
The statement goes on to say that the tuition hike disproportionately affects students with marginalized backgrounds and that the initiative conflicts with President Schill’s message to improve equity and inclusion at the UO.
“Investments in the Pathway programs will not be enough if tuition is increased in an unsustainable manner,” the statement said.
The statement was signed by several student groups, including the AccessABILITY Student Union, the MultiCultural Center, the Nontraditional Student Union, various members of the ASUO and others.
A student rally will be held today in front of Johnson Hall to demand tuition transparency prior to the 3 p.m. forum. The TFAB will propose the tuition increase to UO Provost Scott Coltrane on Feb. 8.
These accusations come one week after President Schill’s statement that he would recommend a tuition increase to the Board of Trustees.
“Our own President is not in touch with the needs of students on campus,” the statement said. “He speaks of funding completion services and budget cuts, but does not work to encourage administrators to allocate the dollars to the services and resources students are asking for.”
Here is the student groups’ statement in its entirety:
“University of Oregon Campus Community,
On January 4, a new term began for most students at the UO, and with that began another round of weekly talks about tuition at the Tuition & Fees Advisory Board (TFAB). This board is comprised primarily of administrators and faculty, with two students appointed by students, and two students appointed by the administration. At the start of the term, guaranteed tuition was off the table for 2016-2017, and administrators presented an increase of 4.7% for in-state students and 4.65% for out-of-state students. Over the course of the year, if a student were to take an average of 15 credits per term – the required amount for graduation in four years – this amounts to an increase of about $483 for in-state students and $1,489 for out-of state. Factor in the duration of loan payment and interest rates, and students will be paying this increase back for many years to come.
The student representatives, including the ASUO President Helena Schlegel, opposed this increase and looked forward to negotiating ways to adjust the budget in order to reduce the proposed tuition and fee increases. During the week of January 25, the student participants left the meeting a few minutes early in order to make it to class. The rest of the group moved to make a decision in the absence of these students and voted to approve the 4.7% increase.
Both student-nominated representatives were informed on Monday, February 1 that this decision had been made, as well as that all remaining TFAB meetings for the year would be canceled as they were no longer deemed necessary. An additional message was sent to Schlegel mentioning that an open forum for all students could only take place at 3pm on Wednesday, February 3. Previously, there had been talks of holding the forum later in the week or possibly the next week, but instead it was moved up, on the same day that students will be in Salem to lobby for higher education funding for a statewide lobby day, and at a time that many students are still in class.
Aside from these divisive tactics and increases which are inaccessible for many students and communities on campus, all of this comes at a time when there is a dangerous rhetoric being spread around campus by University President Michael Schill. At an event on January 26, Schill failed to acknowledge how his 2% budget cuts across the board are trickling down and student I-fee dollars are having to pick up the gaps left in some student group and resource budgets. He also directly stated that debts of $24,000-$25,000 are not insurmountable, and that borrowing is actually a positive thing that fills gaps now before one has the money at a later time. On many other occasions in addition to this event, President Schill has mentioned that tuition increases are inevitable and will happen every year.
This rhetoric is at odds with President Schill’s initiatives on improving equity and inclusion at the UO. The tuition hike affects all students, but it disproportionately affects students from marginalized backgrounds, like students of color and low-income students. Investments in the Pathway programs will not be enough if tuition is increased in an unsustainable manner. Tuition affordability is vital to improving the dismal state of diversity at the UO; President Schill and other administrators need to realize this if they are truly invested in bettering our campus.
Our own President is not in touch with the needs of students on campus. He speaks of funding completion services and budget cuts, but does not work to encourage administrators to allocate the dollars to the services and resources students are asking for. Students on campus are frequently divided by the administration – see the 2014 GTFF strike for recent context – and are either completely ignored or constantly left out of conversations about situations that directly impact us.
Our tuition dollars keep the school running, yet our voices are ignored on a daily basis. Students across the nation are facing the same circumstances, but are being taught that because it is “just the way things are,” we have no power to hold administrators accountable. It is time for the UO and students across the country to come together and engage critically with administrators about where our dollars are going, and why we are going into debt while our administrators are making as much as $798,400 a year (yes, President Schill makes that much a year).
This funding model of raising tuition is not stable or sustainable. Operating in a non-transparent way to exclude students from vital conversations is not an acceptable way to run an institution of higher education. Commoditizing marginalized students and denying the importance of affordability in their ability to attend UO is outrageously misguided We need an administration that cares about, listens to, and includes our voices and opinions. That is non-negotiable.
AccessABILITY Student Union
Associated Students of the University of Oregon Executive
Associated Students for Historic Preservation
Climate Justice League
Nontraditional Student Union
UO Student Mental Health Advocates
Kevin Dobyns, ASUO Senate President
Andrew Dunn, ASUO Senate Seat 7
Mario Radic, President, Pi Sigma Alpha
Nicole Hendrix, ASUO Senate Seat 18
Quinn Haaga, ASUO Senate Seat 2″