Was the denied tuition increase a victory?

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Illustration by Aaron Ughoc

At a recent meeting, the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission denied the proposed 9 percent tuition increase approved by Portland State’s Board of Trustees in April. This is the first time the HECC has denied a tuition increase for PSU. The denial could be due to Governor Kate Brown’s vehement urging to scrutinize tuition increases above 5 percent. The HECC turned down University of Oregon’s proposed increase, although three other universities in Oregon received approval.

Before the HECC met to vote on proposed tuition increases, the commission considered how each school had met five criteria given by Governor Brown. In Section A of a May 10 document written by the Funding and Achievement Subcommittee, HECC staff recommended that PSU’s tuition increase be approved on the grounds of satisfying Governor Brown’s criteria.

It was noted in this same section that the HECC was concerned student input did not have enough impact on the tuition recommendation. Good news here for PSU students who made an effort to voice their opinions. The HECC seems to have noticed. Members of the board also expressed concerns that the students of these universities were not being heard.  

The denial may initially feel like a victory for the student body, but it’s not all roses and sunshine for PSU.

Without the increase, PSU is facing deeper cuts to bridge a gap in the budget. In an April 26 letter to the HECC, PSU Vice President of Finance and Administration Dr. Kevin Reynolds mentioned a planned $9 million budget cut meant to help PSU cover the impending $20 million gap. PSU will have to make more cuts that could have a negative impact on the quality of our education. The plan to cut costs at PSU with the tuition increase includes the reduction of faculty through attrition.

In a statement from Ken Ma, PSU’s director of media and public relations, the additional $5 million in cuts the school needs will likely affect programs and need-based scholarships. In a response to the HECC, PSU identified itself as having more underserved students than other Oregon universities. With programs and need-based scholarships on the chopping block, it is these underserved students who may be hit the hardest.

In the face of similar budget deficits and a 10 percent tuition increase, UO is planning to continue pushing for its increase through the state legislature. Without an increase, UO will be making unfavorable cuts that have both the administration and the student body concerned. PSU may take a similar path before resigning to cutting another $5 million from the budget. The school will most likely ask the board to reconsider or appeal directly to the state.

Students can use the momentum from this landmark decision to put the pressure on the state now. The HECC’s denial can be interpreted as a message to state reps that it’s time to start spending more money on higher education. Student groups advocating for lower out-of-pocket costs need to carry the fight beyond the HECC now. Without money coming in to PSU from somewhere, deeper cuts could be more painful than a tuition increase.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The extra curricular programs can get cut without harming the quality of the education. Academics should be central in focus. The budget cuts can happen without hurting academics. SALP can be reorganized to encourage organizations to get their funding via inter-organizational efforts and not from student fees. The University can get rid of many of these jobs on campus at student services. Many students have no use for these services and would rather not be on the hook to finance services which they don’t use. I don’t want to be charged so that child care can be offered at reduced rates to student mothers, whom I’ll never meet. Another thing to consider is that there’s no reason to pay the president of the university $600,000 for what little he does. If we’re going to cut academic programs, get rid of the social studies programs like gender studies and women’s studies, that conditions snowflakes and SJW’s to leave college hysterical and less hire-able than when they started.

    • Agreed. The University Studies, for the most part, are SJW nonsense. If you do away with these poorly formulated classes and the highly inept instructors that teach them, you may save some money. I do not need a “Pop Culture” class or anything involving gender studies, these are not marketable in reality because they can only exist in the hermetically sealed environment of academia. When exposed to reality these ideas normally die of their own falsehoods or become parodies of themselves. I question how we ever switched to having legitimate history,art, language, mathematics, physics, and chemistry classes as core classes with legitimate merit and purpose to the victimization of every demographic for whatever reason or another. I had taken a class here called “Freedom, Privacy, and Technology” thinking it would be legal, ethical, and technical information regarding subjects like encryption algorithms, large data structures, net neutrality, and security + concepts. Instead, my first class was a mentor flat out saying that all white people are racist and the professor continuing that theme to include white males and talks of transphobia. Most concepts and data in the class was poorly researched and in some cases completely fabricated to suit a narrative. This is not an example of tuition well spent on classes simply designed to indoctrinate rather than expound information.

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