Most of the University of Oregon’s graduate programs will likely see higher tuition next academic year after the Tuition and Fees Advisory Board recommended a slate of departmental proposals alongside its nonresident undergraduate tuition proposal earlier this month.
Most of the proposed increases range from 2.5 to 5.2 percent, with a few proposals reaching higher than that.
Current students in the School of Planning, Public Policy and Management will see the largest immediate increase: 8 percent, or about $438 and $1,052 for residents and nonresidents, respectively, taking 16 credits.
All graduate programs are impacted by the same cost drivers that the entire university is facing — increasing state-mandated retirement and health benefit payments, increasing staff, faculty and graduate employee salaries and an increasing minimum wage.
According to a proposal by the school, most of the increase proposed by PPPM is in response to these challenges, while about 3 percent is dedicated to hiring a new administrator to “bolster administrative support.” For faculty and students, this part of the increase was met with mixed reviews.
“There was less overall support from students for this portion of the increase, but there was clear understanding on why the program requires additional administrative support to thrive in this space,” the PPPM proposal said. “Nonetheless, several students still vocally opposed the 3 percent increase.”
Across the university, the greatest proposed increase will impact future resident students in architecture, interior architecture, landscape architecture and historic preservation programs. The cost of these programs will increase by 15 percent for residents and won’t increase for nonresidents; however, there’s a catch.
College of Design associate dean Rocco Luiere told TFAB members in January that these programs have a “tuition guarantee.” This means that students making satisfactory academic progress pay the price of tuition when they started their programs and aren’t affected by future increases.
“Due to the tuition guarantee on these programs, the recommended 15 percent increase is the equivalent of raising tuition by 7.2 percent per year for three years,” the proposal states.
At a TFAB meeting in January, several members proposed a tuition guarantee for undergraduates similar to the ones in the College of Design. Chief Financial Officer Jamie Moffitt told members of the group that the university had considered that idea in the past but was unwilling to take on the risk because of the possibility of the economy or other financial variables changing over time.
Another consideration, Luiere reminded TFAB members, is the fact that many graduate students have their tuition paid all or in part by graduate employee appointments.
More than 1,400 of the university’s approximately 3,600 graduate students serve as graduate employees, according to university data, meaning that these proposals don’t actually increase the cost of attendance for these students.
The School of Law also proposed one of the larger increases for the next year: a 7 percent increase for both residents and nonresidents. This shakes out to an increase of about $2,322 for residents and $2,934 for nonresidents in the traditional three-year program.
At the TFAB meeting, Marcilynn Burke, the dean of the School of Law, told members that the increase was needed in order to remain competitive with other law schools in the region. She cited the rate at which UO Law School graduates pass the bar exam — the professional exam for lawyers.
Addressing the proposed increase to TFAB, Burke also mentioned the fact that many law students have much of their tuition paid for through scholarships. According to ABA data, about half of the law school’s students get at least half of their tuition paid for by the school.
The other graduate tuition proposals TFAB recommended would increase tuition for those programs from anywhere between 0 and 5.2 percent.
Alongside the undergraduate nonresident tuition proposal, the graduate tuition proposals have now moved on to UO President Michael Schill, who will forward the recommendations to the board of trustees at its March 4 meeting.