Byline: Diane Dietz The Register-Guard
University of Oregon students will face the biggest tuition and fee increase of the state's seven public universities under a proposal advanced Friday by a committee of the state Board of Higher Education.
UO tuition and fees will be $9,852 next year, up 5.8 percent over the current school year. The average increase across all the institutions is 4.5 percent.
Western Oregon University is asking for the smallest increase at 1.9 percent.
Committee members sympathized with students who asked them to freeze, rather than raise, tuition. Members said they are aware of the toll that student loan debt is taking.
"What does it mean for our economy and our state if they have that much debt when they leave our schools?" board member Farbodd Ganjifard said. "We can't keep doing this."
The full, 13-member state Board of Higher Education is scheduled to take up the tuition increase proposal at its June 21 meeting.
The UO needs the tuition increase to hire more tenure-track professors, build new classrooms and upgrade the UO's overtaxed wireless communications system, Jamie Moffitt, the university's chief financial officer, told the committee.
The Eugene Water & Electric Board is predicting it will increase its rates, she said. The university has resorted to leasing classroom space to accommodate a recent spike in enrollment, and landlords are asking for more money, she said.
In addition, the student- approved upgrades to the Student Recreation Center - and later to the Erb Memorial Union - have piled on the fees.
"It's a big number compared to the tuition increase," Moffitt said.
The UO's annual tuition increases - without including fees - have gotten smaller over time: 15.5 percent in fall 2009; 12.1 in 2010; 9 percent in 2011; 6.1 percent in 2012; 4.5 percent for the coming fall.
"It is not anticipated that this resident undergraduate tuition increase will substantively impact either access or affordability for resident undergraduate students at the University of Oregon," Moffitt said in her written proposal.
The statewide committee received written testimony from 62 people, and only one wrote in support of the tuition increase.
On Friday, the committee heard from more than a dozen students, and most of them opposed the tuition increase.
Several of the students said they will have experienced a 40 percent increase in college costs over the four years they attended.
Many said they know students who have dropped out because of rising prices. Some said they're beginning to wonder if the benefit of staying in school is worth the cost. …