State commission approves SOU tuition rate

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(Ashland, Ore.) — Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission acknowledged Southern Oregon University’s collaboration, momentum and attention to the overall best interests of students by voting today to accept 2017-18 tuition rates adopted last month by the SOU Board of Trustees.

“I truly appreciate the ability of HECC members to grasp the nuances of our recent budget- and tuition-setting process, and to understand the swell of energy and passion on our campus,” said SOU President Linda Schott, who was in Salem to present the university’s tuition plan to commissioners.

HECC members approved the 12 percent tuition increase that SOU’s Board of Trustees unanimously adopted on April 21. The HECC vote finalizes a months-long process by students, staff, faculty members and others to work collaboratively through a budget cycle that was deeply affected by the state’s $1.4 to $1.6 billion funding shortfall.

The HECC must approve tuition increases above 5 percent for any of the state’s seven public universities. Gov. Kate Brown laid out strict criteria that the universities had to meet this year as justification for increases over 5 percent, and the commission approved rates today for SOU, OIT and WOU. Tuition rates for PSU and UO did not receive sufficient votes for approval, and OSU and EOU did not require HECC approval for tuition increases below 5 percent.

SOU’s tuition has risen by an average of 2.5 percent annually over the past four years, and the university currently operates on less revenue than any other public university in Oregon, on a per-student basis. SOU’s tuition increase will result in an additional $18.17 per credit hour for SOU students who are Oregon residents, and similar increases for non-residents.

Students from various universities dominated the public comment session at Thursday’s HECC meeting. Some opposed their universities’ tuition increases and others spoke in favor of the rates, recognizing that deep cuts in programs would cause more damage than higher tuition.

President Schott acknowledged that SOU’s increase will cause difficulties for some students, and said the university has tried to address some of those concerns by offsetting the tuition increase with $500,000 in additional institutional aid for students least able to afford the increased cost. The university will also expand efforts to steer eligible students toward cost-saving options such as programs that allow students to graduate in three years instead of four.

“There is little to celebrate in today’s vote,” Schott said. “We have heard our students – those who have spoken against the tuition increase and those who have reluctantly acknowledged that it is the lesser of two evils. This tuition rate enables us to continue planning an efficient, innovative and successful future for SOU, its students and our community.”

SOU has made $14 million in cuts over the past three years as part of its retrenchment process. Any additional cuts would significantly erode the university’s academic and student support programs.

Tuition at SOU will remain among the lowest of Oregon’s seven public universities. The overall cost of attendance – a combination of tuition, student fees and housing – will go up by about 5.8 percent.

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About Southern Oregon University
As a public liberal arts university, SOU focuses on student learning, accessibility and civic engagement that enriches both the community and bioregion. The university is recognized for fostering intellectual creativity, for quality and innovation in its connected learning programs, and for the educational benefits of its unique geographic location. SOU was the first university in Oregon—and one of the first in the nation—to offset 100 percent of its energy use with clean, renewable power, and it is the first university in the nation to balance 100% of its water consumption. Visit sou.edu.