Governor’s budget puts double-digit tuition increases on the table

Oregon’s seven public universities are facing potential hiring freezes, double-digit tuition increases and cuts to services after the office of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown delivered a budget proposal Nov. 28.

The proposal includes lower-than-anticipated funding for higher education. Collectively, Oregon universities asked the state for $120 million in additional funds to maintain current service levels until 2021. The amount of additional funding proposed by the governor’s office? Zero.

During a press conference the day following the budget proposal, Portland State President Rahmat Shoureshi called on students to lobby state legislators for more funding. “It’s so important for students to really team-up, do some planning and go into the legislatures to tell them, ‘this is not sustainable,’” he said.

The proposed budget will move to the Oregon legislature, where lawmakers will begin their own budget-writing process starting in January 2019.

In a press release, Associated Students of Portland State University President Luis Balderas Villagrana expressed concern over the recommended budget, while also stating that asking students to lobby their representatives is “disrespectful to students who are working multiple jobs, are going hungry and are houseless because of the current cost of tuition.”

“The politicization of education by our representatives undermines the will of students to learn so that they can further contribute to their community,” Balderas Villagra stated.

Earlier this year, students protested against a tuition hike of nearly five percent—approximately $437 per year for a full-time resident—and succeeded in getting the administration to lower the increase to 3.95 percent by drawing approximately $1 million from its rainy day fund. If Oregon universities don’t secure additional state funding, students could face a tuition hike over double that amount.

In a statement released by all seven of Oregon’s university presidents, cuts to academic and student support programs were also put forward as solutions to budget gaps.

Part of the reason why no additional funds were included in the budget is because $200 million in additional funding was prioritized for K-12 schools.

Funding for higher education was included in a $2 billion “investment package,” which includes other education improvements and reforms. However, because Brown’s office didn’t identify how to fund those improvements, it is up to lawmakers to figure out where the money will come from.

As reported by OPB, Executive Director of the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission Ben Cannon wrote to staff about the “stark difference between the future of higher education in Oregon absent that investment package.”

Keeping funding at its current level would result in “bruising cuts to Oregon higher education, shrinking opportunities for Oregonians to prepare for family-wage careers and reversing six years of steady progress,” Cannon stated.

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