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Education

Eastern Oregon University joins state’s other public universities in approving tuition hike

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Rob Manning
/
OPB
Eastern Oregon University was one of the founding higher education partners in Eastern Promise. Its professors work with public school teachers to ensure high schoolers are doing college-level work in college credit courses.

EOU’s increase is just below what would require state approval

Eastern Oregon University’s Board of Trustees Thursday approved a 4.9% tuition increase for undergraduate students for the upcoming academic year.

EOU is the last public university in Oregon to decide on tuition this year. It follows in the footsteps of the six other universities that have all recommended increases.

However, even with the tuition increase, and an estimated boost in enrollment, Eastern officials are still anticipating a budget deficit of at least $2 million.

EOU’s Vice President of Finance, Lara Moore, said the university made certain decisions it knew would contribute to that operating deficit — including freezing its tuition rates for most undergraduate students last year.

“Our tuition proposal recognizes that,” Moore said Thursday. “It recognizes that we are in an operating deficit. It recognizes the inflationary pressures that we are under as an institution, because we do want to maintain our financial stability.”

Moore stressed that even with the tuition increase, affordability is an important principle to the university. According to EOU board documents, Eastern is still Oregon’s cheapest public university by credit hour for in-state students even with this increase.

Undergraduate in-state students are paying a little over $7,800 in tuition this school year if they’re taking 15 credits per term in a regular three-term year. They’ll pay roughly $380 more starting next school year — or about $8,200 in annual tuition. Students from Washington and Idaho can also get in-state tuition at Eastern.

Undergraduate out-of-state students are currently paying about $20,500 annually, based on that same 15-credit load. They will see an annual increase of about $1,000 — up to $21,500 in annual tuition.

Tuition prices also vary for students in the Western Undergraduate Exchange Program, or WUE — students who come from a number of states near Oregon, like California and Nevada. Rates also vary for students solely taking classes online.

Eastern is Oregon’s smallest public university and like nearly every other public university in the state, it got a little smaller during the pandemic. Only Oregon State University has avoided a decrease in enrollment this past fall compared with numbers before the pandemic, according to Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission. Officials at the small university in La Grande are reporting an 8% decrease in enrolled students from 2019 to fall 2021 — a trend they say is critical to address.

“The real key to everything really is enrollment. That’s what we’re going to live and die on is enrollment,” EOU Trustee Brad Stephens said at the board’s meeting Thursday.

All of the public universities are instituting tuition increases for the upcoming academic year of anywhere from around 3% to 5% for in-state undergraduate students.

Rate at which tuition is climbing

This chart reflects tuition paid by entering students. Some universities keep tuition fixed based on the year students enroll and others raise tuition for all students each year.

Some universities like the University of Oregon and Oregon State University, have cohort-style tuition rates which differ depending on whether a student is new to the university or continuing. Both UO and OSU are charging new in-state undergraduate students 4.5% more than current tuition rates.

University officials who aren’t facing the direct threat of lowered student enrollment have cited rising inflation costs as a reason for the increases.

Still, all of the universities have committed to staying under 5% increases. If they go over that amount, they have to seek outside approval from the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission. Getting approved for a higher tuition increase is not guaranteed, as UO and Portland State University learned in 2017.

The Oregon Institute of Technology was initially recommending a 7% increase in tuition and fees, but it lowered that increase to 5% last week, after a funding adjustment in their favor.

Oregon public university tuition

This chart reflects tuition paid by entering students. Some universities keep tuition fixed based on the year students enroll and others raise tuition for all students each year.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting