A key legislative subcommittee today approved a funding bill for Oregon’s seven public universities, signaling an end to SOU’s long process of planning its budget and tuition rates for the 2019-20 academic year.
The Joint Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Education approved an allocation of $837 million over the next two years for the state’s public universities. That’s $100 million more than the universities received for the current biennium, which ends June 30, but still below the $120 million that was sought to keep pace with increased costs of retirement, health care and wages – which are controlled at the state level.
SOU will need to set its tuition increase for next year at 10 percent – $17 per credit hour – if higher education funding remains at $837 million as the bill is voted on by the full Ways and Means Committee and then the House and Senate over the next few weeks. The overall cost of attendance at SOU – which takes into account tuition, mandatory student fees, housing and meals – will be approximately 4.5 percent because of ongoing efforts to limit cost increases in other areas.
The tuition increase for next year will also be offset by $500,000 in additional institutional aid – from the current $3.6 million to $4.1 million – for students who are least able to afford the additional cost. Information about institutional aid and other forms of financial assistance is available at SOU’s Financial Aid Office.
President Linda Schott said in an email to campus today that the level of state funding authorized by the legislative subcommittee “still will not support current service levels at SOU” because of rising costs at the state level and the formula used to divide funding among Oregon’s public universities.
“But lawmakers’ movement from their starting point of flat funding for public universities suggests they recognize the importance of higher education in changing learners’ lives,” the president said.
SOU and the other six public universities lobbied for an increase of $120 million, to keep pace with the rising statewide expenses. Even state funding at that level would not have prevented a tuition increase at SOU.
The SOU Board of Trustees last month approved a recommendation, based on input from the university’s Tuition Advisory Council, for a 2019-20 tuition increase tied directly to the level at which legislators would eventually fund higher education. At the time, the most likely scenario appeared to be near 13.5 percent.
The university’s recommendation for a 10 percent tuition increase will be presented on Thursday to Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission, which must approve any tuition increase above 5 percent. Those who wish to listen to the meeting can call (888) 273-3658 and enter the access code 5934430.