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Tuition rising again at Oregon’s seven public universities

Incoming freshmen at Oregon’s public universities will pay record tuition for the upcoming school year, with all seven of the state’s public universities hiking the cost again.

Nearly every one of the schools has increased tuition every year for the past 10 years, making average tuition at Oregon’s public universities today about 26% higher than it was a decade ago, according to the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission. 

The hikes have drawn the ire of students and the commission leaders, who point to the lack of state funding for higher education as a key reason tuition continues to rise. Oregon ranks 32nd among states for public investment in higher education, according to the Colorado-based policy group State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

Nearly every public university in the state has approved tuition increases of 3% to 5% for the 2024-25 school year, while the board of Eastern Oregon University in La Grande is preparing to vote on a tuition increase within that range by May 15. Any tuition increases above 5% require that the universities’ boards get approval from the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

“Oregon public universities have some of the highest tuition and fee rates among Western states,” said Ben Cannon, executive director of the commission, in an email. “We are very concerned about increased tuition and rising college costs as a whole (including tuition, housing, books, etc.), particularly as they affect low-income populations who are struggling most.” 

The tuition hikes means that in-state freshmen at the University of Oregon will pay more than $16,100 a year, while in-state full-time students at Portland State University will pay about $11,800 compared with $14,400 for Oregon State University. The three universities have the highest enrollment in the state, and the University of Oregon and Oregon State are the most expensive public universities in the state. 

The schools say rising inflation and higher staff costs, including contributions to the state’s Public Employees Retirement System, or PERS, along with the cost of materials and capital investment are also behind the tuition hikes. Despite dramatic rises in tuition during the last decade, full-time enrollment in Oregon’s four-year universities has declined by about 3,000 students since 2014, and the number of students enrolled in classes has fallen by about 4,000 over that time period. Last fall, nearly 80,000 students were enrolled at Oregon’s public universities, and more than 98,000 were taking classes.

At every university, student tuition and fees make up more than half of revenue, one of the highest proportions in the nation, according to a recent report commissioned by lawmakers from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, a nonprofit think tank in Colorado. About 25 years ago, public funding accounted for up to 75% of the cost of each full-time employee at an Oregon university. Now, it pays for about 50% or less, researchers found. Oregon’s per-pupil funding for full-time college students is about $5,600 annually, around $3,000 less than what California and Washington provide. 

“When the Oregon state Legislature and our governor fail to prioritize meaningful state investment in our college and universities, Oregon’s students’ foot the bill via yearly tuition increases,” Nick Keough, legislative director for the nonprofit student advocacy group Oregon Student Association, said in an email. “Continual tuition increases are undoubtedly pricing Oregonians and students out of higher education every day, while contributing to the exasperation of the student debt crisis here in Oregon.”

Here’s a look at the tuition hikes at Oregon’s public universities:

Oregon State University

Resident and non-resident students at Oregon’s largest university by enrollment will see tuition rise more than 4.5% next fall. More than 60% of undergraduates are non-residents, and about half of all students, including graduate students, at Oregon State are from out of state. 

Students from outside Oregon pay nearly three times as much for tuition. Resident undergraduates attending full-time this year are paying about $13,800 in tuition and fees. Out-of-state undergraduates are paying about $36,600. 

Tuition will rise 2% for resident graduate students and more than 5% for non-resident graduate students. Online credits will cost more than 4.5% more and the cost of participating in doctoral and professional graduate programs will rise by 3% to 7%. Student fees will also go up to pay for counselors and psychological services, capital projects and student health services.

The university will offer students $125 million in financial aid, according to Sean Nealon, a university spokesperson. That’s almost three times what it was five years ago, he said in a news release. 

University of Oregon

Tuition is locked in for five years for each incoming class of freshman at the University of Oregon so that students pay the same tuition for the first five years. Next year’s freshman will pay 3% more than freshman this year. The university hiked tuition 11% for the freshman class of 2019; added 3% for freshman in 2020; another 3.7% for freshman in 2021; about 4% for freshman in 2022; and 4% more for freshman enrolled in the current 2023-24 academic year. Those students today pay more than $15,600 a year – more than 25% more than what freshmen paid just six years ago. 

Portland State University

Resident undergraduate students will see tuition rise by nearly 5%, or about $10 per credit hour. Non-resident students will pay 3% more. A full-time resident student today pays more than $11,238 per year, an increase of more than $5,000 in the last six years. 

Western Oregon University

Resident and non-resident tuition will go up by 5% and nearly 5%, respectively. Graduate tuition will also rise 5%. Western will still be the second-least-expensive university in the state, according to Maureen Brakke, communications director for the school. Only Eastern Oregon University is less expensive, about $1,000 less than Western’s $11,000 tuition cost for in-state, full-time enrollment.

Oregon Institute of Technology

Oregon Tech, with campuses in Klamath Falls and Portland, will increase tuition by 4.5%. 

The school increased tuition 7% in 2022 and 4% in 2023. Most undergraduate students today pay, on average, about $12,700, at least $1,000 more per year than they did three years ago. 

Southern Oregon University

Southern Oregon University in Ashland will increase tuition for most students by nearly 5% for the 2024-25 academic year. That means that in-state full-time students will pay about $12,700 a year, an increase of about $600 per year from 2023-24. Tuition costs for several master’s programs in education and business administration will remain unchanged.

Eastern Oregon University

Students enrolled at Eastern Oregon University will see a tuition hike in the next school year, though it won’t exceed 5%, according to Tim Seydel, a university spokesperson. The school’s Tuition Advisory Committee has not settled on a number but will recommend that the Board of Trustees vote on the tuition at their May 15 meeting, Seydel said in an email. The school currently offers the lowest tuition of any Oregon public university, about $10,700 for Oregon residents enrolled full time. 

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