University presents budget options to Ways & Means

The University of Oregon, along with the six other public universities, made their case on March 28 to the Legislature’s key budget-writers about why investment in operating funding for college students is critical to a bright future for Oregon.

The universities’ presentation focused on the student experience; gaining admission to, paying for, and graduating from college in 2019. We worked to highlight for lawmakers the stark differences between the financial realities of higher education today versus 20 or 30 years ago when many of them were in school. In 1976, for example, annual tuition and fees at a four-year, public university was just more than $1,200 a year. Today, that’s approximately what a student would pay each month for a one bedroom apartment in an urban area like Portland.

Universities highlighted the dramatic increase in institutional tuition remissions in the wake of lagging state investment. We talked about programs like Pathway Oregon that help Pell-eligible students pay for school, but made sure to note that that didn’t account for the full cost of earning a college degree that includes room and board, transportation, books, and food.

Student, staff, and trustee representatives from all seven campuses walked the Education Subcommittee through how various investment levels in the Public University Support Fund would impact student debt levels, support services, research, and graduation rates on every campus. Specifically, we’re talking about four scenarios:

  • +$40.5 million in the PUSF (total state investment of $777.4 million in 2019-21) The funding level that the State of Oregon has targeted as what public universities need to continue “current services.” Unfortunately, it does not include key cost drivers faced by institutions, including bargained compensation packages and other employee benefits that impact the universities’ ability to keep tuition low and not make further cuts to workforce or services.
  • +$120 million in the PUSF (total state investment of $856.9 million in 2019-21) The funding level public universities have calculated would keep tuition increases at or below five percent for the next two years.
  • +$186 million in the PUSF (total state investment of $922.9 million in 2019-21) The funding level recommended by the Higher Education Coordination Commission necessary to advance the state’s educational attainment goals.
  • +$263 million  the PUSF (total state investment of $1 billion in 2019-21) The optimal funding level for students and public universities to keep tuition increases below three percent for the next two years and make significant new investments in advising, financial aid, wraparound wellbeing services, and academic quality.