Oregon State University faces tuition increase

Tia Collins News Contributor

Even though Oregon lawmakers invested $665 million dollars in general support for higher education, Oregon State University is still facing an increase in tuition the next academic year.

OSU is currently expected to increase tuition on the Corvallis Campus by 2.2 percent for undergraduate residents, 4 percent for graduate non-residents, 2 percent for the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program and 3 percent for Pharm. D. program.

The state funding agreement is considered one of the largest re-investments in public education in the state of Oregon. Despite all the perks of state funding, it has not been sufficient enough to prevent an increase in tuition.

According to Sherman Bloomer, the director of budget and fiscal planning at OSU, Oregon funding is not adequate enough to prevent tuition increases.

“Oregon had the biggest percent increase in state funding for higher education of any state this year. However, the state is starting from a pretty low place. Last year we were about 47th or 48th in funding per student in the 50 states,” Bloomer said. “(after the increase in state funding)We’re certainly still in the bottom ten states.”

According to Bloomer, the investment definitely had an impact and was the first really big increase in funding since the state cut so much during the recession. In 2008, sate funding was around $6,428 per student FTE (full time equivalent—two half-time students = 1 FTE). By 2012, the number dropped to $4,018 (adjusted for inflation) and in 2016 has risen to $5,170 (adjusted for inflation).

The increase in state funding has had many affects on the OSU campus.

“Residents had lesser (tuition) rates than otherwise would’ve been charged,” said Steve Clark, the Vice President of Oregon State University.

One reason many students paid less for tuition is that state funding led to an increase in financial aid. According to Doug Severs, the Director of Financial Aid and Scholarships, they were able to increase their grant funding by almost $2 million.

“(The increase in state funding) makes it easier to increase our grant funding for students with financial need and it helps keep the tuition and fees stable,” Severs said.

According to Clark, some of the state funding was also allocated to student programs and services in order to increase retention rates at OSU. Clark stated that part of the funds were dedicated towards advising students to stay in school. The cost of college for many families is a difficulty, but it is even more of a burden when students drop out and don’t have a degree that allow them to pay off their debts. Investments with the state in allowing students to complete a degree will help them cover loans. State funding added approximately $1.7 to $2.9 million in funding to provide for student retention.

A portion of the state funding was put towards making improvements on the OSU campus and sustaining the quality of education students receive. The funding included covering the costs of operating new facilities like the Learning Innovation Center and covering costs of new faculty in areas with high student growth.

“Overall state funding is 21 percent of the Education and General Funds in Corvallis this year the E&G funds are the ones that include tuition and operate most of the Corvallis academic functions. State funding is even a bigger part of supporting the campus in Bend,” Bloomer said.

Clark said Oregon has a history of low state funding in higher education.

“For the last 10 to 15 years, or more, the percentage of state funding to the Oregon’s seven public schools has gone down from supporting two-thirds the cost to less than one-third,” Clark said, “Universities had to look for alternate source of funding— philanthropy, tuition, donors, expense cuts to balance budgets—The pressure is on the student’s family and the university.”

According to Clark, research discovered that in 2000, tuition for 15 credit hours was approximately $3,654, but by the 2014/15 school year, tuition had gone up to $9,122. One reason for that increase was inflation, which amounted to a 40 percent change in the cost of living on a comparable basis to the rate in 2000.

The increase in tuition also occurred because state funding was considered unable to cover some of the costs of running the university.

According to Clark, OSU works hard to manage costs to save money wherever possible; however, somethings are beyond the university’s control and are established by the state. These include healthcare and PERS.

“There is a higher PERS retirement plan. In the late 80s and early 90s, 8 percent was promised on their pension,” said Sami Al-AbdRabbuh, an industrial engineer doctorate student and an Associated Students of Oregon State University House of Representatives member. “The state is not supporting higher education as we should due to high expenditure demands.”

Although there is debate about whether the state is providing enough funding to higher education, there are ways beyond state funding that OSU uses to try to lower expenses.

According to Clark, expense control, scholarships, tuition, state-funding and the number of students we enroll at Oregon state area all a part of the ways in which OSU tries to get to the right level of operation at the right tuition level without compromising the university.

The University is also committed to raise scholarships to provide students assistance in paying for tuition fees according to Clark. There is 189 million scholarships and the fundraising campaign for Oregon State University foundation.

“Foundation is private nonprofit fundraising foundation that provides endowments for faculty, scholarships for students, and funds to help construct and renovate buildings,” said Clark.

The endowments and expenses that proved for faculty members are ways in which OSU encourages the best and brightest faculty members to come to OSU so that students can get a quality education.

“There are cost increases every year on the programs and services we currently offer. Things like utilities, insurance, custodial services, etc. all go up as they do for any public or private sector enterprise. These are really important as we want to make sure we are bringing the best faculty and staff to Corvallis and that we keep them here,” Bloomer said.

Other incentives used to bring in the best faculty include giving out raises even when tuition for students is going up.

“Tuition rates are essential and it could be counter productive if we disinvest in the quality or quantity of advisers and teachers. Waiting lists would raise and quality would go down which means that the value of a degree would not be sufficient enough to compete globally for work,” Clark said.

Getting the best of the best is linked to getting a better education and a more valuable degree.

“Need to get the best of the best. Raises are important, we should treat them as part of the solution. That solution includes having the best man in power,” said Al-Abdrabbuh.

In order to pay for resources that add to the quality of degrees available at the university tuition is often increased, but state funding can help ease or even bring down these costs.

“Tuition covers a lot of those increases, so keeping tuition down means finding another source of funding to help with those cost increases (like state funding) or reducing the scope of some service or program we’re currently offering,” Bloomer said, “The increased state support is a huge part of why we’re able to propose the lowest tuition increases for next year we have seen in many years.”

There are many things students can do to try to encourage more state funding. Clark suggests that students continue to work with state legislature in order to make higher education a priority. Clark explains that the state funding is involved in funding K-12, social services, law enforcement and other essential state services in addition to higher education. As a result the state has to find a balance.

“2017 it is anticipated that retirement benefits increase even more. No single answer, (to lowering tuition) cost cutting, cost maintenance, fundraising, state support and enrollment management are all used to moderate or with stand future tuition increases. We need to work with legislatures, donors (and) students to budget effectively,” Clark said, “For tuition to go down, an increase in state funding would need to be provided in a very significant way.”

Going beyond lobbying is also another way to lower tuition expenses and increase state funding.

“Lobbying would work by increasing awareness and the awareness is going to help us act on it. This could lead to potential solutions,” Al-Abdrabbuh said. “Lobbying by itself is not enough. Students need to be more vigilant, and there needs to be more productivity and innovation going into solving problem of a consistently increasing tuition. State funding is necessary, but not sufficient.”

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