Oregon Governor Kate Brown sent a letter to the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission last week, stating that the HECC should not approve any tuition increases over 5 percent for public colleges. This could affect the proposed 10.6 percent tuition increase that the University of Oregon Board of Trustees approved in March.
“We take very seriously Governor Brown’s message to our commission to reject any university tuition increases above five percent, unless clear, student-focused criteria are met,” Ben Cannon, the HECC Executive Director, wrote in a statement.
The HECC is a 14-member board in charge of higher education funding. In May, the board will be voting on UO’s proposed tuition increase of $945 for all students.
“The University of Oregon has been clear since the beginning of the budget development process that the only way to keep tuition increases at five percent is for lawmakers to increase funding for public higher education in this state by $100 million,” university spokesman Tobin Klinger wrote in a statement.
Governor Brown’s letter outlines the criteria that must be met for the HECC to approve an increase over 5 percent. For the tuition increase to pass, the commission must be provided with evidence that the university gave serious consideration to the budget increase, evidence that minority and low-income students will be supported and a plan for how the university is going to manage costs.
“In arriving at our tuition levels for next year, the UO engaged the campus in an exhaustive and transparent process over a period of months that analyzed a wide variety of scenarios,” Klinger said. “Through that process, it was clear that a blend of cuts and tuition increases would be necessary to balance the budget following years of disinvestment by the state.”
Students in ASUO have been working to combat the tuition increase by trying to increase funding from the state, including a visit to the capital in March with President Schill and a campaign called WTF (Where The Funds) to encourage students to call their state representative about higher education funding.
Natalie Fisher, the external vice president of ASUO who was a member of the Tuition and Fees Advisory board, is disheartened by Governor Brown’s letter. Fisher is worried that if tuition increases are capped at five percent, there will be even more than the $9 million in cuts that UO is already facing with the 10 percent increase.
“For her to come out and say ‘Oh, you made the wrong decision, keep it at 5 percent,’ is frustrating because there is no feeling of understanding of where universities are at with their current funding situation,” Fisher said.