Budget proposal may cause drastic tuition hike

The Oregon University System is speculating that tuition may rise by 18 percent over the next two years if the proposed budget for higher education from the Ways and Means Committee is passed.

The Oregon University System is speculating that tuition may rise by 18 percent over the next two years if the proposed budget for higher education from the Ways and Means Committee is passed.

The co-chairs of the Ways and Means Committee recently proposed a budget that undercut Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s proposed budget for higher education by $35 million. The budget is still in the legislative process and under review until the 2007 legislative session ends.

Jay Kenton, vice chancellor of finance and administration for the Oregon University System (OUS), said that OUS will need to increase tuition rates at all universities by 9.1 percent per year for the next biennium if the Ways and Means Committee’s budget passes. Kenton said that tuition could also increase if the governor’s proposed budget were passed without the Ways and Means Committee reduction.

Kenton said that he speculates the rise in tuition will be 3.4 percent next year. He said that the Oregon Student Association (OSA) is supportive of the 3.4 percent increase and that any greater increase “would be fairly problematic.”

“If this trend continues, we’ll be broke in a few years,” Kenton said. “We’ve already made cuts everywhere we can, so if we don’t see some support from the state legislators, we’re in real trouble.”

OUS is responsible for setting the tuition rates for higher education institutions across the state, including Portland State, Oregon State University and the University of Oregon. Kenton said that he was asked to project what the increases for tuition would be should the current budget from the Ways and Means Committee be enacted by legislation.

Kenton said these increases are not sustainable and that state funding is an essential part of Oregon’s universities.

None of the increases have been voted on or confirmed in any way by OUS yet. Kenton said that Democrats–currently the majority party in the Oregon Legislature–are expecting to finalize the budget by June 29.

“Those figures are just me responding to an inquiry,” Kenton said.

Kenton said that OUS expects to make financial cuts during the next two years, even if they allocate funding for Oregon’s universities with the governor’s budget fully funded. He said that OSU is preparing to make $10 million in cuts, PSU $3 million and Southern Oregon University $4 million.

“Some institutions are closer to the edge than others,” Kenton said. “Our costs are outweighing our funding for the next two years.”

Courtney Morse, the president of the Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU), said that the budget cuts could mean that child-care services for the state could be cut entirely. She also said that Lincoln Hall, currently scheduled for renovation, would be condemned instead of renovated.

ASPSU is working to gather signatures to push for the renovation of Lincoln Hall and Science Building 2, to increase the funding in the Ways and Means budget, and to petition at the state Capitol.

Morse said that she will be in Salem on Thursday, May 3, to host a bake sale with OSA. She said that she feels the bake sale will show support and that all proceeds will go toward higher education funding.

“Basically, this is a ridiculous situation to be in and we’re doing all we can to raise a few bucks for our education,” Morse said.

Morse said that she is rallying for students to gather at the Capitol for the bake sale and that ASPSU is holding regular events in the Park Blocks to raise student awareness for the funding cuts. She said that legislators are not doing their job if they do not increase funding for higher education and that legislators are not doing enough for students by discussing increases for corporate minimum taxes or reviewing other ways to generate income.

“Our job as students is not to raise funding,” Morse said. “Our job is to go to school.”