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Johnson Hall is the administration building on the University of Oregon campus. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

Tuition — a common reason for student frustration toward the University of Oregon.

Just this last spring, the UO board of trustees voted to raise tuition for the 2019-20 academic year by 2.97% and 6.91% for nonresidents and residents, respectively. And those tuition increases weren’t the first in recent memory; since the 2009-10 school year, tuition has increased about eight times, according to inflation-adjusted figures from the UO institutional research website. 

This fall, the Tuition and Fee Advisory Board has been meeting semi-regularly to get new members, such as those from the ASUO executive branch, up to speed on the numbers surrounding tuition, university financing and projections for the next year’s funding.

TFAB’s 20-or-so members meet semi-regularly to discuss tuition rates, institutional expenses and future plans. Each spring, the board recommends certain actions to President Michael Schill, who in turn makes a recommendation to the deciding party: the UO board of trustees. 

Didn’t attend this term’s meetings? Here are some of the key takeaways.

Some of the university’s biggest financial pressures come from retirement costs and declining state funding. 

In total, UO’s major cost-drivers for the next fiscal year — which include retirement costs, salaries, institutional bills and a state-mandated health care program — add up to a $19-million increase in expenses.

From retirement costs, UO is facing increasing costs from PERS, the state retirement system for Oregon’s public employees, spelled out as the Public Employees Retirement System.

“We are not in a balanced budget situation this year,” said Jamie Moffitt, UO’s chief financial officer who co-chairs the board with Kevin Marbury, vice president for student life, at a Nov. 1 TFAB meeting. “Most years, many years, when we’ve had this discussion with TFAB, we have been in a balanced budget situation. So the discussion that we’ve had is, what costs are going up with the university that we have to cover the next year?”

The Oregon legislature has steadily lowered the amount of funding that UO and other Oregon public universities receive.

UO, one of the largest universities in Oregon, receives the least state funding per student from the state legislature. Per fundable student, the state legislature gives UO $5,647. At the top of the list of state funding is the Oregon Institute of Technology, at $13,584. Eastern Oregon University comes in a close second at $13,457. 

State disinvestment, which began in the ‘90s, has become more pronounced since the Great Recession.

The state uses a variety of variables to come to these numbers, some of which include the cost of education and the diversity of the student body.

“When they give out money for fundable students, they [the state] don't just treat students the same,” Moffitt said at the Nov. 1 meeting. “We don't have an engineering program, so we don't have those higher-cost students. We tend to have more students in the liberal arts than some other campuses, and so those students get less funding.”

The university plans to grow to help offset rising costs. 

To help offset these cost-drivers, Moffitt explained, the university wants to attract new students, particularly nonresident students, who pay more in tuition than residents.

This growth plan includes new master’s degree programs and online courses, more scholarship packages and more efforts to get state funding. The plan for more scholarship packages comes from how nonresident students said UO was not competitive with its scholarships when compared to other universities, Moffitt explained.

“It's very important that the growth initiative be successful,” Moffitt said at the Nov. 15 meeting.

TFAB and board of trustees meetings are open to the public. Though the exact TFAB meeting dates for winter term have not been finalized as of publication, the board has tentatively discussed the following agenda, with their meeting dates, times and locations to be decided:

  • Week 1 (Jan. 6 - 10): Undergraduate and graduate tuition proposals, course fees and the student forum where TFAB members will present on tuition.

  • Week 2 (Jan. 13 - 17): Members will discuss a tuition forum aimed at students, fee proposals for the EMU and Rec Center and continue to discuss undergraduate tuition.

  • Week 3 (Jan. 20 - 24): Members will discuss fee proposals for housing and counseling, along with continuing to discuss undergraduate and graduate tuition.

  • Week 4 (Jan 27 - 31): Members will talk about any other proposals the board received and will discuss undergraduate tuition.

  • Week 5 (Feb. 3 - 7): The board will finalize its recommendations for President Schill.

The Daily Emerald will continue to report on the tuition-setting process throughout the year. Questions about tuition? Contact Senior Reporter Ryan Nguyen at rnguyen@dailyemerald.com or Associate News Editor Zack Demars at zdemars@dailyemerald.com.

Coverage of previous TFAB meetings: