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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.

President Schott discusses tuition rates at Board of Trustees meeting

SOU Board of Trustees approves potential tuition rates for 2019-20

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon University Board of Trustees agreed today with President Linda Schott’s recommendation for tuition rates for the 2019-20 academic year that will be directly tied to the Oregon Legislature’s budget allocation for higher education. Tuition for resident undergraduate students is expected to increase by a range of $15 to $23 per credit hour, depending on the Legislature’s funding decision.

“The board’s vote today demonstrates our commitment to preserving access to a college education for SOU’s current and future students, while balancing the board’s responsibility to safeguard the fiscal health of the institution,” said Lyn Hennion, chair of the SOU Board of Trustees. “An SOU degree will remain an affordable and clear path toward a successful future.

“This decision is linked directly to the amount of state revenue we receive as one of Oregon’s seven public universities,” she said. “The more funding provided by the State Legislature, the lower we will be able to set our students’ tuition rates.”

The range of tuition rates approved by the Board of Trustees is based on a unanimous recommendation from SOU’s Tuition Advisory Council, which has met more than a dozen times and is made up of students, faculty and administrators. President Linda Schott suggested adopting a spectrum of potential tuition rates tied to various legislative funding scenarios, and the trustees unanimously approved the plan following more than an hour of discussion.

SOU’s tuition increase for the coming academic year will be accompanied by continued efforts to reduce costs across campus. The university has saved more than $1 million over the past year by asking departments to voluntarily trim their budgets.

“No option available to us would have been painless,” President Schott said. “These are the best choices for our students and the university, as lawmakers continue to shift the burden of higher education from the state to our students and their families.”

The state paid for two-thirds of its universities’ operating budgets 30 years ago and tuition covered the remaining third. The ratio is now exactly opposite.

However, President Schott said the support of SOU’s Board of Trustees will enable the institution to continue on the strong positive trajectory it has established in recent years. “Today’s actions maintain the excellence of our academic and support services, and enable us to continue meeting the needs of current and future learners in our region,” she said.

SOU remains committed to keeping higher education within the reach of all students and prospective students, and will offset the tuition increase with $500,000 in additional institutional aid for those who are least able to afford the additional cost. The university has also addressed student expenses for textbooks, and the room-and-board costs of those who live in residence halls. The overall cost of attendance – which includes tuition, mandatory student fees, and housing and meals – is expected to increase next year by 4.39 to 5.21 percent, depending on the tuition rate eventually adopted.

The increase in resident undergraduate tuition is likely to be in the range of 8.5 to 13.5 percent for next year, depending on the Legislature’s funding decision. The annual dollar amount of the increase, based on 15 credit hours per term, will be between $675 and $1,035. Tuition for nonresident undergraduates will increase by 5 percent – $26 per credit hour or $1,170 per year.

Because the state’s six other public universities are also planning for increases, tuition at SOU will remain among the lowest of the Oregon schools.

State legislators are not expected to make final decisions on the state budget until early July, but universities must prepare their budgets during the spring. SOU will continue to make its case for additional state funding, but must use current information to plan for the coming academic year.

“We look forward to state lawmakers prioritizing higher education and making a clear financial commitment to the students who are Oregon’s future leaders,” said Hennion, the Board of Trustees chair.

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State commission approves SOU tuition rate


NEWS RELEASE (available online at https://goo.gl/1mMLmn)
(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.