Southern Oregon University will join other public universities in the state in raising tuition starting with the fall term. Exactly how much, will hinge on decisions made in the state legislature over the next month or so.
Rising costs led the SOU Board of Trustees Thursday to approve a tuition increase for state residents that could be as high as 13.5 percent. But University president Linda Schott said it could be lower.
"We hope that that will not be the rate," she said, "because we believe with the positive revenue projection yesterday, that the state will be able to allocate more dollars to higher education, and that we will be able to bring that tuition increase down, possibly as low as 8.5 percent."
Schott says a decades-long erosion in state funding for Oregon’s public universities began with the passage of Measure 5 and other tax-cutting measures voters passed in the 1990s.
"And as a result of that," she said, "the funding for higher education has declined. Every university has been increasing tuition to offset the public decline in support for the university."
Schott also said spiraling costs for the state’s Public Employee Retirement System is another major driver of the need to hike tuition
On Wednesday, state economists delivered a tax revenue forecast that projects the state will collect more than $2 billion over what they initially predicted. About three-quarters of that is supposed to be returned to taxpayers under Oregon’s unique “kicker” law.
But Schott says the state’s public universities are pushing for a share of what’s left. Once lawmakers decide the budget, SOU will recalculate the final tuition hike needed, based on how much state funding is finally approved.