PSU budget forum highlights challenges for next year and beyond
Author: Christopher Broderick, University Communications
Posted: March 16, 2017

Portland State faces a difficult challenge balancing the university budget in 2017-18 unless state support increases during legislative deliberations this spring, administrators told a campus forum of faculty, staff and students Thursday. 

President Wim Wiewel and PSU Budget Director Andria Johnson detailed the factors driving the budget, such as rising pension and benefit costs and a state budget proposed by Gov. Kate Brown that would not increase higher education funding for the next two years.  

University leaders and students across the state are asking legislators to increase funding by $100 million over the next two years for all seven public universities to avoid large tuition increases and cuts next fall. Wiewel urged the campus community to attend the “PSU Day at the Capitol” on April 6 in Salem to meet with legislators and discuss funding and related issues. 

To sustain current service levels without growth, PSU needs a 4.2 percent increase in the budget next year mainly because of increases in salaries, health insurance and pension contributions. Unless the Legislature agrees to increase state support, a tuition increase of 5 to 9 percent for resident undergraduates is likely in order to balance the budget. PSU currently has the second lowest tuition among Oregon’s public universities at $8,523 for full-time resident undergraduates. 

At the forum, those attending were asked to post their ideas on ways to help bridge the budget gap both for the short term and long term. There was a wide range of ideas, such as increasing enrollment through online programs and better retention, supporting the Affordability Coalition between PSU and business leaders that seeks to raise $25 million a year through various ways, tapping reserves, capping executive salaries, offering more financial aid and beefing up student recruitment through PSU’s website and other efforts. 

The Board of Trustees Finance and Administration Committee will discuss the budget and tuition at its next meeting April 5. Trustees will vote on April 11. Any tuition increase above 5 percent would also have to be approved by the state Higher Education Coordinating Commission. Because the legislative session is expected to go into June or early July, the trustees could revisit a tuition proposal after the session ends if more money is allocated to higher education.   

Organizers encouraged faculty, staff and students to weigh in with feedback and ideas online and learn more about budget specifics and potential scenarios also on the Finance and Administration site.