Ducks swoop into Salem to make a case for a budget boost

This article first appeared in Around the O on March 9, 2017

Almost 100 university leaders, students and alumni rallied in Salem on Thursday to urge lawmakers to boost state support for public universities and protect the affordability of a college degree.

The annual UO Day at the state Capitol was a chance for university supporters to put a face on the dilemma students and their families will face if tuition increases can’t be reduced through increased state funding. In addition to meeting with legislators and Gov. Kate Brown, Duck bands performed in the House and Senate chambers, students showed off some of their research and UO President Michael Schill and student body President Quinn Haaga spoke about the benefits of public higher education.

The UO’s Board of Trustees recently approved a 10.6 percent tuition increase for resident undergraduate students for the coming academic year. The proposed tuition plan is conditional, and the university could lower tuition if the state provides increased funding for higher education.

“A vibrant public education system is a vital component of a thriving economy and prosperous future for Oregon,” Schill and Haaga wrote in a commentary published in The Oregonian earlier this week.

The article called on state lawmakers to reinvest in higher education and consider the effect of two decades of cuts to public universities in Oregon. University leaders, students and alumni continued to make this case to lawmakers on Thursday alongside Schill and Haaga.

The state’s seven public universities have requested $100 million in additional annual funding from the Legislature, which is currently developing a budget for the next biennium. The budget plan approved by the Board of Trustees clears the university to lower tuition by approximately 1 percentage point for every $20 million increase in state higher education funding.

Full funding of the $100 million request would mean a 5.1 percent undergraduate tuition increase at the UO, less than half of what is currently planned.

Many students shared their own stories about the effect of tuition increases on their families during conversations with legislators. Other students showcased their research to demonstrate the innovation and discovery that happens on campus.

The tuition increase approved by the Board of Trustees was based on a draft budget released by state lawmakers earlier this year. University leaders and students plan to continue lobbying for higher education funding as the Legislature works on completing and approving the state budget in the coming months.

“There is still hope that the UO can avoid raising tuition by more than 10 percent,” said Hans Bernard, the UO’s assistant vice president for state affairs and special assistant to the president, “and university leaders will continue to work tirelessly to urge state lawmakers to boost funding for public universities and keep the cost of a college degree affordable for Oregonians.”

—By Emily Halnon, University Communications