Full-time students who entered Portland State as freshmen in the fall of 2003 are already paying $483 more per year in tuition as sophomores. By the time they are seniors, they will be paying $721 more per year than when they began.
If state projections hold true, it is likely this number will only grow larger. Tuition is expected to increase by 10 to 12 percent in the next two years according to Governor Ted Kulongoski’s 2005-07 budget proposal, an increase meant to enable more students who are already eligible to receive the Oregon Opportunity grant.
Over the last decade, tuition has increase by more than 50 percent for full-time undergraduates at Oregon’s state universities. In the past five years alone, full time undergraduates have seen a 9.3 percent increase, with an 8.5 to 10.2 percent increase for graduate students.
The cost of college has risen steadily as a result of the state legislature’s attempt to compensate for Oregon’s budget shortfalls. Although there is slightly more money available for higher education, enrollment has ballooned dramatically over the last few years.
However, more tuition increases are not yet set in stone. The state legislature must first approve the governor’s budget, and the State Board of Higher Education must approve any tuition increase, giving student leaders a chance to plead for the state to find other solutions.
The Oregon Student Association, a non-profit advocacy group for Oregon public university students, is pushing legislators to discuss a tuition freeze, though campaigns of this nature have repeatedly failed in the past several years.
A tuition freeze is a tough sell, though, as it would require an additional $32 million budget allocation from the state, according to Oregon Student Association spokesperson Arlie Adkins.
Portland State student government communications director Tony Rasmussen describes student government’s efforts as "a traditional grassroots lobbying campaign," which includes encouraging students to send 1,000 postcards to key legislators.
"We have people tabling everyday on a multitude of issues," ASPSU Vice President Ryan Klute said. "Tuition is in the hands of state legislators. The number one priority is to get student voice and student testimony to the capitol."
"I think ASPSU’s first goal is to make sure students are educated," OSA campus organizer Erin Linell said.
The OSA will hold a Lobby Day next Tuesday in Salem, to which student government hopes to send 20 students. According to Adkins, the OSA has sent students to talk to 47 of the 90 legislators since their session began Jan. 10. Earlier this year, they registered 33,000 students to vote, providing them with voters’ guides which gauged how running candidates felt about issues such as tuition increase.
"If we show that students are voting, legislators are more likely to listen," Adkins said.
Later this month, the organization will sponsor a "Day of Action" at PSU that will most likely take place in the Park Blocks.
"It’s the first time we’re being proactive instead of reactive when it comes to higher education," Linell said.
Two student forums are planned to take place at PSU Monday, Feb. 7 to discuss potential tuition increases. The forums will be held in SMSU 292 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.