Posts

SOU students have some certainty about next year's tuition rate following last Thursday's vote by the HECC

Oregon’s HECC approves SOU tuition rate for 2019-20

Southern Oregon University’s tuition rate for the academic year that begins this fall was approved unanimously last Thursday by Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission, whose members commended SOU’s efforts to include students in the tuition-setting process.

The rate approved for undergraduate students who are Oregon residents is an increase of $17 per credit hour – or 9.9 percent – over the current year’s tuition rate. Resident undergraduate students will pay a total of $189 per credit hour, unless lawmakers unexpectedly add more funding for higher education during the Oregon Legislature’s closing weeks. Tuition rates for resident graduate students will also increase by 9.9 percent, and rates for non-resident undergraduate and graduate students – who already pay substantially more than Oregon residents – will increase by 5 percent.

“It’s good for our students and our university to have some degree of certainty,” SOU President Linda Schott said. “At the same time, we know there are some legislators who recognize the burden that has increasingly been shifted to students and their parents. We hope to reverse that trend, and would welcome an opportunity to continue that work before this year’s legislative session ends.”

The tuition rate that SOU proposed, and was approved on Thursday by the HECC, is toward the lower end of a sliding scale that was accepted last month by the SOU Board of Trustees. The university’s board approved a range of tuition increases – from $15 to $23 per credit, or 8.5 percent to 13.5 percent – that were tied to various state funding scenarios for Oregon’s seven public universities.

The amount is still not set in stone, but the funding measure currently winding its way through the Oregon Legislature includes $837 million for higher education – $100 million more than for the biennium that ends June 30. The public universities have said it will take at least $120 million more than the current allocation to maintain current service levels, because of increases costs of retirement, health care and wages – all of which are managed at the state level.

Under the formula used to divide state money among Oregon’s universities, the $100 million increase in higher education funding will result in an increase of only $1.67 million in revenue at SOU for the coming academic year, which does not keep pace with rising costs. Leaders of the university have already begun to lay groundwork for a review of the funding formula and potential changes to level the playing field for all universities.

Tuition at SOU will remain among the lowest at Oregon’s public universities, and its overall cost of attendance – which includes tuition, along with mandatory student fees, housing and meals will increase by just over 4 percent next year. The university is also increasing the pool of institutional aid – available to the most financially vulnerable students – to $4.1 million next year, from the current year’s $3.6 million.

Cost-containment at university housing will help keep SOU's overall cost of attendance relatively low despite a tuition increase

SOU’s budget and tuition come into focus

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.

SOU welcome sign-open forums are this week

Open forums this week on SOU’s tuition and budget

Open forums to present and discuss the latest news about state funding and its effects on SOU will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, and all members of the university community are encouraged to attend.

The forums will focus on factors that will affect SOU’s tuition rates and overall budget for the 2019-20 academic year.

The first forum will be from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the Stevenson Union Gallery. The second will be from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday in Room 202 of the Stevenson Union.

The SOU Board of Trustees voted unanimously on May 16 to approve a tuition rate increase for the 2019-20 academic year that will be tied to the level of higher education funding adopted in the Oregon Legislature’s current session. The range was based on recommendations of the university’s Tuition Advisory Council and was brought to the board by President Linda Schott.

The increase will most likely be in the range of $15 to $23 per credit hour, based on funding scenarios legislators have discussed publicly.

But the Legislature’s funding discussions have covered a broad range of possibilities, which has made it difficult for Oregon’s seven public universities to make concrete budget plans. Representatives of SOU and the other universities continue to work with legislators, emphasizing the importance of adequate funding for higher education and easing the burden on students and their families.

The state covered two-thirds of the universities’ operating costs 30 years ago while tuition paid for the other third. The burden has steadily shifted, and tuition now pays for two-thirds of the universities’ operations and the state pays for one-third.

SOU’s government relations and budget staff will discuss the changing budget and tuition possibilities during this week’s open forums. They will describe potential implications for the university and its students, including the most likely scenarios for next year’s tuition rates.

Forum participants will be reminded that the Legislature typically finalizes its budget in early July, and any input – particularly the compelling stories of SOU students – may make a difference in lawmakers’ decisions.