Four and a half percent tuition increase
By Michael Burton, Editor-in-chief
Oregon Tech has set a 4.5 percent tuition increase for the next academic year. This follows the previous year’s 5 percent tuition increase, which was reduced from an initial 8 percent increase thanks to state funding.
The tuition increase came at the behest of the Tuition Recommendation Committee (TRC), a mixed group of administrators, faculty, and students who meet over the course of six weeks to examine Oregon Tech’s current needs, the financial situation in the coming years, and the needs of the students to create a viable budget.
“One of the conversations we had was that we wanted to keep the level of education we’re getting the same,” said Faith Lee, the ASOIT President. She expressed that one of the priorities for the TRC is to keep the level of education at the forefront of these decisions. The goal is to maintain the level of education students are receiving without causing students to be in a position to take on further debt. As a student on the committee, Lee has a vested interest in the process, because she herself must pay the same tuition and fees.
The 4.5 percent increase was judged an acceptable “middle ground” between a larger tuition increase and a smaller one. The coming 2018-2019 school year is expected to be a larger increase.
“The main goal was, while still keeping quality, we wanted to make sure we weren’t going to put too much of a burden on our students,” says Lee.
State funding is provided on a two year schedule. Last year was a funding year, and as Vice President of Finance Brian Fox puts it, “Legislators want to put money to fund us.” Oregon Tech has a high return on investment, something state legislators are aware of and want to support. Forty percent of Oregon Tech’s funding comes from the state.
However, every two years the state has to take into account its other dues. The Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) must pay retired Oregon public servants their pensions, and the number of retirees is growing. Brian Fox is anticipating a much harder sell in 2019, as the state of Oregon is already experiencing a deficit. The current tuition increase is intended to prevent dramatic tuition hikes in the future, so that students do not need to worry about dramatically inflating college costs, but instead a smaller and more manageable increase.
“We don’t want students to be constantly afraid of an 8 percent tuition increase,” says Lee.
During the TRC’s meetings, the primary emphasis on the conversation was maintaining the current level of quality Oregon Tech is known for, while also shoring up known shortcomings such as faulty wireless connection or malfunctioning school computers.
Brian Fox also placed an emphasis on the importance of existing construction projects, such as the Cornett renovation, the planned reworking of the exterior of the athletic center, and a new planned engineering building, for which Oregon Tech has just hired an architect. Fox also took care to mention that funding also went to the Wilsonville campus, which had its own buildings and students to look after.
“If we just juice tuition, it goes counter to our mission and what we focus on,” says Fox. The tuition increase comes with a purpose – to weather an expected drop in state funding without driving away students due to costs, while also considering the needs and concerns of all students: Wilsonville, Klamath, engineering, medical, traditional, and non-traditional.
A TRU (Technical Regional Universities) day is planned for the coming year. Oregon Tech and other state-funded schools will gather in Salem to encourage state legislators to keep funding the schools and their students. It could be what makes a difference.
Faith Lee encourages any students who want to be a part of future budget conversations to attend the scheduled tuition forums. They are always announced through the student email, and all are welcome to attend.