Tuition increase worries students; university leaders say it’s ‘necessary’

Taylor Barron, fourth-year communications major, said she is disappointed by the tuition increase approval. Taylor believes Oregon State University could have found the funding elsewhere.

Cara Nixon, News Contributor

Some Oregon State University community members are concerned about how the recently-approved tuition increase will affect economically insecure students, but university leaders say it’s necessary.

The OSU Board of Trustees approved the tuition increase for the 2021-22 academic year on April 2. This includes a 2.5% rise in costs for returning undergraduate students and an increase of 4% for new undergraduate students. 

Khawater Hussein, the student member of the board, voiced concerns to The Barometer the day of the approval about the increase and how it will affect students already struggling during the pandemic. 

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Fourth-year communications student Taylor Barron expressed similar worries about the increase. Barron said her initial reaction to the news was “utter disappointment.” 

“…we have had to pay for the last year even during such unfortunate circumstances,” Barron said. “I absolutely think [OSU] could have [accrued the funds] in other ways.”

Like Hussein, Barron said she is concerned about how the tuition increase will affect students already facing economic insecurity during the pandemic. 

“I feel like students have been sucked dry of their funds and emotional and academic sanity,” Barron said. “I think this is going to enrage a lot of students, especially those who are already financially struggling this year.”

Steve Clark, vice president of University Relations and Marketing, said the decision by the board to approve the increase was done with “empathy and awareness.”

“The board took into account the university’s education, research and engagement mission; its commitment to providing students with a high-quality education and valued OSU degree; the limited prospects for increased state funding; the tuition pressures expressed by some students; cost control measures in place throughout the university; and increased faculty and staff personnel costs,” Clark explained. 

Clark said the board’s discussion of the increase was “extensive,” and the board has also committed with university leasers to increase university financial aid provided to students to $59.5 million next year, which is an increase from the $45 million in the 2020 fiscal year. 

David Park, the chair of the Associated Students of Oregon State University Student Fee Committee, said the tuition increase is “necessary.” Park explained that like any other budget-run organization, OSU begins by planning its cost trajectories for the next year in tandem with enrollment projections. 

The University Budget Council receives input from the Student Budget Advisory Council, which is a 15-student volunteer group that provides insight into tuition from a student level. When given three different scenarios and three different enrollment projections, the UBC and SBAC found that all scenarios lead to OSU having a projected deficit.

“OSU doesn’t make a ‘profit’ from the tuition,” Park said. “The fundamental goal of tuition is to offset the lack of state and federal funding to the public university. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be reductions in federal and state funding in the coming years and in order to provide a high-quality educational experience, there needs to be targeted funding to critical OSU programs and continued advancement and improvements to the overall learning experience.”

Park said ASOSU provides support for students who will be more affected by the tuition increase. 

ASOSU Office of Advocacy and ASOSU Student Legal Services offer a wide range of services that empower and puts an ease of mind to those who have been affected by not just the tuition increases, but a wide range of issues,” Park said. “We invite everyone who has been affected to reach out to these services.”