The State Board of Higher Education (the “Board”) met June 1 at Portland State University to consider tuition and fee rates, recommendations on establishment of institutional boards, and achievement compacts, among other agenda items covered by the Board.
Jay Kenton, Oregon University System (OUS) vice chancellor for finance and administration, and Jan Lewis, OUS assistant vice chancellor for budget operations, presented the proposed tuition increases provided by each university, and which have previously been reviewed and forwarded to the full board from the Finance and Administration Committee. Kenton provided background on tuition increases over time and the components which influence increases. He noted that state funding is the primary driver of tuition increases, and that as OUS budgets have been decreasing over time, with a 16% decrease in 2011-2013 from the prior biennium, students have had to take up some of the loss in state funding through higher tuition costs. Kenton provided data on how OUS campuses’ tuition compares to their peer institutions and noted that all but one of the campuses are near or below their peers for in-state tuition, with one slightly above peer averages, but below the high peer rates.
Lewis summarized the changes in the tuition and fee rates and related issues. She noted that Summer tuition rates are now approved at the same time as academic year rates, when in the past Summer rates were established and approved separately. She also noted that health service fees have changed because of changes in the healthcare industry which are bringing significantly higher rates. Because of this, most campuses which currently have mandatory health insurance coverage have opted to provide optional programs; PSU will still have required health insurance for students, although students can opt-out if they have insurance from other sources. Two campuses have always had optional healthcare insurance.
Board members heard testimony from several students on the tuition increases. SOU president Mary Cullinan responded to the board about the need for the 9.9% increase in tuition and the financial problems that would arise without the increase, including going below board required reserve levels. She said that SOU has increased need- based aid to help the students with the greatest need meet the increase. She agreed that the rates will impact students, and noted that SOU has already gone through significant budget, staff and faculty cuts to address lower funding from the state in order to reduce costs, but that this has not been enough to meet operating costs without the tuition increase. The Chancellor supported Dr. Cullinan’s description of SOU’s fragile financial situation, and noted that even with this increase, SOU is still the second lowest tuition rate in the system. He noted that the impact of the increase would need to be watched as there is some concern that it may impact enrollment. Cullinan also noted that the increase of tuition and fees combined is 4.2% which is lower than some of the other campuses’ combined increase.