The Tuition and Fees Advisory Board, which recommends tuition increases to university administrators each spring, met on Friday, Nov. 16 for its last meeting of the term.
The four meetings in fall term focused on informing TFAB members about the structure of the university budget, according to the board’s website. TFAB will enter the discussion and recommendation phase of its process when it reconvenes in January.
The university faces funding challenges for the next academic year. According to the data TFAB reviewed at Friday’s meeting, the university’s costs are projected to increase by about $24 million, or around 4.5 percent, next year.
To put that number in perspective, the increase in costs this year was only about $17 million. That situation led to a tuition increase of $6 per credit for in-state students and $18 per credit for out-of-state students.
TFAB is made up of 18 members, including professors and administrators and five student representatives. The board serves as “the university’s official advisory group charged with reviewing and recommending tuition and fee proposals each year,” according to the board’s guiding principles.
The specifics of that mission are much more complex — TFAB is responsible for recommending changes to tuition and fee amounts each year, which requires a full understanding of the university’s “education and general” budget.
As Jamie Moffitt, co-chair of TFAB and UO vice president of finance and administration, shared at Friday’s meeting, that the “education and general” budget makes up the essentials of the university’s operations. The budget includes expenses such as faculty salaries and benefits, but not other expenses, including research grants or athletics.
At the meeting, Moffitt showed TFAB members a tuition modeling tool they’d be using to understand the impact of any changes to the tuition proposal.
“Should we wait to look at the depressing numbers until January?” Moffitt joked with the group before demonstrating how the calculator worked.
Moffitt tested the tool by inputting about a 3 percent increase in tuition, or $7 per credit for residents and $22 per credit for nonresidents. This represents about $336 and $1056 per year for residents and nonresidents, respectively, taking 16 credits per term.
The model — assuming enrollment, the state’s contribution and the previous year’s shortfall all stay the same — projected that the university needs to find about $12 million for next year.
Moffitt said that the increased costs the university faces in the next year are primarily due to retirement costs and faculty, staff and GE salaries.
The state requires the university to contribute every other year to the Public Employee Retirement System, which provides pension funds for most university employees after they retire. This year’s projected increase, which covers for the university not contributing last year, is about 14 percent, according to TFAB data.
Other parts of next year’s financial outlook are still unknown, Moffitt said. Key factors include how much the state contributes to the university, the university’s budget shortfall and the amount of students — particularly out-of-state students — enrolled next year.
While this was only an example, it shows the situation TFAB faces this year. Whatever the case, some of the remedies mentioned at the meeting included cutting costs within the university, lobbying for a higher state contribution or raising undergraduate tuition.
TFAB will meet again in January to discuss tuition proposals, and will work with ASUO to host several student forums prior to recommending a plan to the administration. Information about those meetings and forums will be on the tuition website as it becomes available.