Board approves 11 percent tuition increase for Oregon undergraduates
Author: Christopher Broderick
Posted: May 13, 2019

The Portland State University Board of Trustees narrowly approved an 11 percent increase in tuition for Oregon undergraduates combined with millions in cuts to balance the 2019-20 university budget.

 The Board voted 6 to 3 to raise annual tuition and mandatory fees from $9,105 to $10,050 for full-time resident undergraduates starting in the fall. The increase will be reduced if lawmakers in Salem increase state funding for higher education later this legislative session.

“Approving this budget sends a message to the (legislative budget) co-chairs and the governor,” board member Christine Vernier said.

Added board member Margaret Kirkpatrick: “This is agonizing. We are in a terrible situation.”

Under current legislative proposals, PSU would receive only an additional $1.3 million from the state next year, which would not cover projected increases in salaries, benefits and other expenses.

The $2 billion education revenue package under consideration in Salem is allocated for K-12 funding, with nothing earmarked for colleges and universities. PSU and other university officials are urging lawmakers to include higher education in that package or find other ways to increase funding beyond schools.

Students filled the board room to protest the increase, carrying signs and covering the walls with posters rejecting any increase in tuition. After the vote, students said they plan to go to the state Higher Education Coordinating Commission next month to protest the increase.

The HECC has to approve any tuition increase above 5 percent. If the Legislature and Gov. Kate Brown agree to allocate more money to PSU and the other six public universities, the tuition increase would be reduced to as low as 4.9 percent if they agree to meet the funding request from state universities and community colleges.

Kevin Reynolds, vice president of Finance and Administration, said PSU faces an $18.6 million shortfall next year to continue current service levels. That would be balanced by $1.3 million from the state, $7.3 million in additional tuition revenue, $6 million in cuts and $4 million from contingency funds.

All seven public universities are raising tuition. Even with an 11 percent increase for resident undergraduates, annual PSU tuition would remain more than $2,500 lower than University of Oregon and Oregon State University.

Voting for the increase were Vernier, Kirkpatrick, Gale Castillo, Greg Hinckley, Irving Levin, Tom Imeson and Lindsay Stewart. Opposed were Sho Dozono, Ben Barry and Antonio Leiva. Maude Hines abstained. Peter Stott, Pete Nickerson and Erica Bestpitch were absent.