Letter from President Schott: A Day of Cautious Optimism
June 28, 2017
Dear members of the SOU community:
This is a day for cautious optimism that SOU’s tuition increase for the 2017-18 academic year may not be as high as anticipated, based on action by the Education Subcommittee of the Oregon Legislature’s budget-writing joint Ways and Means Committee.
Members of the subcommittee voted to recommend passage of Senate Bill 5524, which would fund the Public University Support Fund at $737 million – about $70 million above the level that our 2017-18 tuition rates were based upon. If the full legislature agrees to fund Oregon’s seven public universities as the subcommittee has recommended, SOU’s tuition increase for the coming year will be 9 percent rather than the 12 percent that our Board of Trustees and the state Higher Education Coordinating Commission approved this spring.
I want to emphasize that this is not yet a sure thing. Senate Bill 5524 still must be voted upon by members of the Ways and Means Committee, then by each full chamber of the Legislature before being signed by the governor.
However, this is the best news we’ve received to date in what has been a distressing budget year for everyone at our university – particularly our students. Legislators are poised to take a meaningful step toward recognizing the critical importance of Oregon’s public universities in preparing our state’s next generation of leaders and innovators.
If approved, SB 5524 will require SOU to reduce its tuition increase for the coming year to 9 percent – which is exactly what we have promised to do, at the $737 million funding level now under consideration. SOU’s Board of Trustees approved the 12 percent tuition increase in April, along with an agreement to “step down” the increase by 1 percent for each $20 million of funding allocated to the Public University Support Fund above the legislative co-chairs’ original budget proposal of $667 million.
Our university has also increased its institutional aid – intended for the most economically vulnerable students – by $500,000, to a total of $4 million for 2017-18.
In addition to increasing the public universities’ basic funding, the current legislation provides $8.2 million in sports lottery funding for athletic programs at the universities – the exact amount we sought after the initial Governor’s Recommended Budget eliminated that funding.
I personally thank everyone who has worked to help our legislators understand the importance of adequate funding for higher education, and I thank the legislators for listening. I urge you to continue telling our story of hope, achievement and success.
President, Southern Oregon University