OUS board OKs 5 percent summer tuition increase

The Oregon Board of Higher Education approved a 5 percent increase in tuition for summer classes at a Jan. 6 meeting at PSU.

Beginning this year, the basic cost for 12 undergraduate summer credits will be $1,430, or just under $120 per credit hour. Graduate students will see a 4 percent increase in costs.

Portland State’s 5 percent jump was the median increase for the seven universities in the Oregon system. Oregon State was the highest at 8 percent, while Eastern Oregon University had the lowest with just a 2 percent rise.

The added fees will mainly pay for rising fixed costs in areas like health and retirement benefits and utilities, according to Oregon University System Communications Director, Di Saunders.

The increase seems to contradict a budgetary stipulation from the Oregon legislature that states that tuition cannot increase by more than 3 percent in any two-year period. However, Saunders said that the board was within its rights since the restriction only applies to the average tuition across the university system. The weighted average increase for all Oregon schools did not exceed 3 percent.

The board did follow the letter of the law, but perhaps not the spirit, according to Morgan Cowling, legislative director for the Oregon Student Association. She pointed out that steeper increases at certain schools would be burdensome for the students of those schools, regardless of the statewide average.

“Our concern is that the intent of the three percent cap was to keep tuition affordable for each student within the Oregon university system,” Cowling said.

Cowling, who fought in the legislature for the 3 percent limit, said that an OSA representative did testify at the board meeting before the higher increases were approved.

Saunders said that the board worked “very hard” to ensure that the increases were in line with median family incomes in the state.

Along with rising fixed costs, the rate hike will also go to pay for replacing obsolete equipment in areas where technology changes quickly, such as nursing and engineering.

“Really, it’s an unusual year where there isn’t a rise in tuition costs,” Saunders said. Oregon universities budget summer sessions separately from the regular school year, so the changes will not apply to other terms at present. The last rate increases at PSU were for the 2004-05 school year, but no new increases are expected before 2007.