Despite weeks of protests and rallies against raising tuition, University of Oregon President Michael Schill announced last Tuesday that he will propose to the Board of Trustees a 4.76 percent tuition increase for in-state students and a 4.46 percent increase for out-of-state students. The board meeting takes place on March 3-4.
Although these figures are on par with what administration has been proposing at Tuition and Fees Advisory Board meetings, it had not been made official until Schill’s Tuition and Fee Recommendation was published on Feb 9.
“The number one priority for our university is to achieve excellence in teaching and research, and I believe that this tuition plan, as part of our overall strategic budget, is necessary to enable us to achieve those goals,” Schill’s announcement reads.
The ASUO pushed for a lower tuition increase at a rally and open forum on Feb. 3. According to ASUO Finance Director Shawn Stevenson, the student government is not backing down from their demands.
“I’m not surprised that he didn’t budge,” Stevenson said, “but over a four percent increase really isn’t manageable for students.”
Stevenson reiterated that the ASUO sees a 3.5 percent increase as the maximum acceptable tuition hike.
Schill said he wants to “cushion the impact of this increase” by expanding programs that are meant to assist the economically disadvantaged through college. For example, part of Schill’s “Oregon Commitment” expands the PathwayOregon program, which provides full tuition and fees to nearly 2,000 students.
Stevenson and the ASUO support PathwayOregon, but say that it doesn’t provide for enough students.
“We’re still going to see a lot of students who don’t have enough money to cover overall tuition increases, but aren’t in a low enough bracket to be eligible for a lot of need-based assistance,” Stevenson said.
Currently, qualifying PathwayOregon students must be Oregon residents, meet a 3.4 high school GPA (with some consideration given to lower averages), and be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant as determined by FAFSA.
Many of the budget increases paid by tuition hikes are meant to benefit the student experience, such as a projected $2.75 million in improving the UO wireless network.
“We have tons of people that are trying to access the network at the same time,” UO Vice President of Finance and Administration Jamie Moffitt said, “Making sure that we’re keeping those services up in a way that’s sustainable for campus is a big and growing cost for all campuses.”
Stevenson is skeptical of the proposal and says that a complete overhaul would be the only way to improve the IT infrastructure. That overhaul, he said, would only drive the cost further up.
“I think [Schill] is being overoptimistic in how much this hike will affect it,” Stevenson said.
Students and faculty have until Feb. 19 to use an online form to comment on the proposal.
Last year, the ASUO protested tuition hikes at the Board of Trustees meeting. Stevenson says to expect an ASUO showing this year in some form.
“Students, quite frankly, can’t afford this increase,” Stevenson said. “We’re going to make sure our voices are heard at the Board of Trustees.”