The first in a series of four budget town hall meetings were held on Feb. 28 in the Native American Student Community Center to provide information to students and the public on tuition rates and the overall budget for the 2019–20 fiscal year.
Presentations were made by Portland State President Rahmat Shoureshi, Vice President for Finance and Administration Kevin Reynolds and Associated Students of PSU President Luis Balderas-Villagrana.
Reynolds outlined the tools PSU has in order to cover $18.6 million in expenditure increases, including $6–9 million in a combined increase of state funds and net tuition growth, a 1–1.5 percent reduction from current service level, a $2–4 million reduction in risk abatement, a $2–3 million refinement of salary and wage assumptions and $5 million in deficit spending.
The upper limit for tuition increases this year is 14–18 percent. Last year the proposed tuition increase was 8.9 percent, while the actual increase was 5.45 percent.
Shoureshi said the university’s goal is to make PSU more affordable with the help of financial aid. According to Shoureshi, 1,500 students currently receive full scholarships to PSU due to fundraising, and the goal is to double that number with even more fundraising efforts.
Shoureshi urged the students in attendance to lobby for more state funding to the legislature in Salem. “You have a lot more power in front of the legislature than either me or the executive team,” Shoureshi said.
In response, Alexander Read, member of PSU Student Union and ASPSU, said that it felt futile.
“At this point as students we are unable to accept small changes,” Read said.
Olivia Pace, senator at ASPSU and organizer with the PSUSU, said she was more pleased with this meeting than the tuition review advisory committee meetings she has attended. “This is the most I’ve seen the administration be pushed, and I felt like this was a much more productive conversation,” Pace said.
Students also expressed frustration at Shoureshi’s reponses. “He’s very condescending,” Pace said. “I don’t feel like he has the student’s interests at heart.”
“He doesn’t seem to be willing to communicate with students as much as we’d like,” Read said.
Former ASPSU Interim President Zia Laboff said increasing tuition correlates directly with decreasing enrollment, contributing to the university’s financial fears.
“The ludicracy of Reynolds talking about how we’re going to be bankrupt in two years if we adopt this plan, but the university is going to go bankrupt if they keep increasing tuition,” Laboff said.
Reynolds said by mid-April, the university will know whether there will be a tuition increase and if so, by how much.
The next student-based forum will take place from 5–6:50 p.m. on March 6 in SMSU 327/8.