Students came en masse to a tuition forum in the EMU Gumwood room to protest a 4.7 percent tuition increase proposed by the Tuition and Fees Advisory Board for next year.
This morning, ASUO members accused TFAB members of voting to raise tuition without the two student representatives, ASUO President Helena Schlegel and Finance Director Shawn Stevenson said, at the meeting.
However, TFAB member Brad Sheldon denied that there was a vote regarding tuition at the meeting, but said there was a “substantial discussion.”
Although Sheldon said there was no vote on the issue, Schlegel and Stevenson said TFAB has cancelled the rest of its meetings for the year indicating that a final decision has been made.
UO Provost Scott Coltrane said that increasing tuition will help pay for raising salaries, providing health benefits to employees and building a stronger IT infrastructure.
“We don’t want to raise tuition,” Coltrane said. “But we must.”
Vice-chair Program Finance Director Natalie Fisher, among other students at the meeting, said UO policy is making accessibility unrealistic.
“I’m an in-state student, […] but I still have $20,000 in debt,” Fisher said. “I don’t find it fair that my options are to pay more or to leave.”
Many students are also concerned about university defunding academic departments on campus. Many said that student groups, including Geology Club, will no longer receive funding from their departments due to this cuts.
“It’s doubling up on our backs when university wants to defund departments and raise tuition at the same time,” Fisher said.
ASUO Senate Zach Lusby called the administration “cruel and inhumane” for focusing in profits instead of student benefits.
“I want to know what you’ll be telling students who are facing an increase up to $3,000 and are working two student jobs to support their needs. What’s on earth you are going to tell them next year when they can’t afford it anymore?” Lusby said. “Things we need to prioritize is keeping students here.”
Stevenson said that the tuition will cover 80 percent of next year’s costs. But he urged the administration to find alternative revenue and cut the salaries of administrators instead.
Many students expressed frustration with the high salaries of President Michael Schill, the ninth highest paid university president in the nation, and head football coach Mark Helfrich, who is paid $3.1 million.
Schlegel demanded “The Three Asks,” including a 3.5 percent tuition increase for both resident and non-resident students, University’s support for the corporate tax measure and funding for the Oregon Opportunity Grant .
Prior to forum, a group of 30 students rallied in front of Johnson Hall. Several students spoke of their situations and criticized UO policy that is pricing out students.
International student Carolina Arredondo Sanchez Lira, who’s working full-time and going to school at the same time, said UO is pushing her to the edge of dropping out of school because of its tuition hike.
“I talked to my parents several times, saying ‘I can’t go back. This is too much money,’” she said. “It’s up to the sky — so expensive to be here.”
ASUO said it will continue organizing forums and rallies about the issue before the Board of Trustee meeting on March 2.
In the previous version, the article stated that Geology Club President spoke at the meeting regarding administration cuts. That is not true.