The Oregonian: PSU trims planned tuition increase, thanks to Legislature
Author: Rich Read, The Oregonian
Posted: August 4, 2015

Read the original story in The Oregonian.

Portland State University is taking the unusual step of reducing a planned tuition increase, saving each full-time in-state undergraduate student $90.

Tuition and fees in 2015-16 will amount to $8,034. That's up 3.1 percent from the $7,794 charged last year for a student taking 15 credits.

University officials say the increase, reduced from the planned 4.2 percent, results from the Legislature boosting funds for higher education. Portland State is the only public university in Oregon lowering its planned tuition hike, said Scott Gallagher, a PSU spokesman.

PSU tuition increases

Tuition and fees for full-time resident undergraduates

2010-11: $7,130

2011-12: $7,764

2012-13: $7,653

2013-14: $7,794

2015-16: $8,034

Source: PSU


"We wish it could be more," Gallagher said of the reduction. "But every dollar helps."

Students protested in March when PSU's trustees voted 10-2 for the original increase. Two dozen demonstrators disrupted a board meeting after several students testified in opposition. Some said they had borrowed heavily to fund their educations, saying their debts dwarfed expected annual incomes.

PSU President Wim Wiewel responded at the time that the full increase and $4.7 million in cuts were necessary to balance the school's budget.

But Wiewel said after the March 12 meeting that Portland State could lower its increase if legislators appropriated $755 million to higher education for the 2015-17 biennium, as Oregon's seven public universities had asked. He said PSU would also use any additional state funding for programs to improve student retention and graduation rates.

In July, legislators voted to spend $700 million, a 22 percent increase for higher education –- almost double the growth in Oregon's overall state budget. The amount exceeded an originally proposed legislative budget by $30 million.

Therefore PSU trustees voted Friday to trim their planned increase. The cut will be magnified in years ahead, Gallagher said, by reducing the base amount for future increases.

Wiewel said PSU will also use its portion of the additional $30 million to hire more advisors and professors and to increase student services.

"We're all concerned about the rising cost of tuition in Oregon," said Pete Nickerson, chairman of PSU's board, in a news release issued after Friday's vote. "It's the board's role to be fiscally responsible while trying to keep tuition as low as possible."

The University of Oregon's tuition and fees for a full-time in-state undergraduate are $10,287 for 2015-16. At Oregon State University, the figure is $10,008.

Steve Clark, OSU vice president of university relations and marketing, said the figures for each school aren't equivalent, partly because they include varying student fees for specific projects and services. Clark noted that Oregon State and Portland State are different types of schools, saying the Corvallis university is more appropriately compared to land-grant research schools in other states.

Clark said Oregon State will use its share of the additional state appropriation to boost financial aid and hire more faculty members, academic advisers and student counselors.

The University of Oregon will also increase financial aid, while providing scholarships to more Oregonians and hiring more tenure-track faculty, said Jen McCulley, a UO spokeswoman.

All seven Oregon public universities aim to boost retention and four-year completion rates. Recent reforms are designed to reward schools for such outcomes instead of basing state funding mainly on enrollment.