Proposed bill would keep Oregon colleges from seeing massive tuition hikes in near future

Fenton Hall at the University of Oregon Campus. Photo by Zachary Neel.

EUGENE, Ore. - Thanks to a proposed bill, Oregon public university and community college students may not see a hike in their tuition over the next two academic years.

“I decided to stay in state because it would be cheaper,” U of O student Makenzie Whitlock says.

In-state tuition for undergrads at the University of Oregon is just under $12,000 per year.

“If my academics are just going to be more and more expensive, what else am I going to have to cut back on to make ends meet,” she says.

Add another estimated $15,000 for dorm expenses annually, and you've got quite a bill on your hands.

That's why Oregon lawmakers want to freeze in-state tuition and mandatory fees for public universities and community colleges for the next two academic years.

“We need to make higher education more accessible more affordable,” says Rep. Diego Hernandez, co-chief sponsor of the bill.

But without a tuition hike, the funds must come from somewhere.

Gov. Kate Brown’s budget aims to fund the Community College Support Fund at $646.7 million to keep tuition increases below 3.5 percent, $856.9 million for the Public University Support Fund to keep tuition growth under 5 percent.

But, public colleges say they need more money to keep programs.

“Chronic dis-investment in community colleges and universities have over and over, year after year, placed more of the burden on the backs of students,” says John Wykoff with the Oregon Community College Association.

The U of O states, "We are working together with students, faculty, staff and the business community to make the case in Salem that the state should invest in making a college education affordable and accessible for all Oregon students. We don't believe a freeze is realistic, but we want to keep tuition increases as low as possible in the upcoming years."

Under the proposed bill, legislators would have to look for additional funding to fill the tuition gap, so schools won't have to significantly cut programs.

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