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Impact of summer class tuition hike remains to be seen at SOU

Southern Oregon University students will pay more for summer classes this year, after the State Board of Higher Education approved an average 8.9 percent increase in summer-term tuition and fees at the state's seven public universities on Friday.

The rise in summer tuition is part of an effort by Oregon's public universities to make the cost of attending class during the summer months consistent with the rest of the academic year.

At SOU, undergraduate students from Oregon will pay 7.3 percent more for 12 credit hours during summer, an increase from $1,681 in 2011 to $1,804 for the upcoming summer term. That's still 11.1 percent, or about $200, less than what 12 credits cost during the other terms at SOU this academic year.

Out-of-state undergrads will be hit hardest by the increases at SOU. They are facing a 180 percent increase for summer tuition and fees, which jumped from $1,801 in 2011 to $5,040 for 12 credits in summer 2012.

"As a student, my initial reaction is that any rise in price is a bad thing," said Kyle Barnes, a 19-year-old SOU sophomore from Ashland.

For graduate students, the summer tuition increases at most schools are a bit more hefty. In-state graduate students at SOU will pay $4,384 for 12 credits, a 25.9 percent increase.

For out-of-state graduate students, it's a 60.4 percent increase, or $5,584 for 12 credits during the summer.

Leaning toward a degree in political science, Barnes has taken German classes during the summer, he said. His only concern with the rising cost is that institutions need to be sure to provide summer students with the same amenities that students receive during the rest of the academic year.

"The curriculum is all there, it's just much, much faster-paced; a very different experience from classes during the rest of the year, but I can see how making the costs even is fair," he said. "They just need to flesh out the overall experience a little bit."

Barnes said he's noticed reductions in service during summer terms, such as fewer office hours for class advisers and fewer operating hours at the library.

"It was just harder to get some things done," he said.

Rick Weems, assistant vice president of enrollment at SOU, said the school doesn't exclude any services from students during the summer.

Jan Lewis, assistant vice chancellor for budget operations at the Oregon University System, said the board discussed the possibility that summer services are lacking for students. She said the board agreed that each school will assess its own summer services, and make sure they are adequate for students.

Lewis said summer term has evolved from a catch-up or special term to one that more closely resembles the other academic terms.

"All of a student's summer hours count towards a degree, just like fall or spring," she said. "It makes sense then, to have those increases."

Lewis said summer tuition rates will be considered again in June, when it approves rates for the 2012-2013 academic year.

Weems said that is when the costs for summer term at SOU likely will be approved to match the costs of other terms at the school.

"It's not set in concrete," he said, "but we're working towards a leveling out. "… We've had summer at a lower tuition than at the rest of the year for as long as I can remember."

Weems said if there are any student services found lacking during the summer, the school will happily bolster them to meet student demand.

"We have a lot more room in the summer to grow," he said. "We're hoping to grow this summer."

At Oregon State University, in-state undergraduate students will pay a 16.6 percent increase in summer tuition during 2012. Eastern Oregon and Western Oregon are the only universities to see a smaller increase than SOU, at 5.3 and 5.4 percent.

Steve Spitz, a 23-year-old senior and criminology major at SOU, said whether an increase in summer tuition is warranted depends on how prepared a professor is to teach the condensed classes.

"It's a lot more work crammed into a shorter period of time," he said. "Some students, like myself, find the regular terms to be dragged out "… but the summer classes put a lot more pressure on the students and the teacher."

Spitz said he enjoys the fast pace of summer classes, and sees the tuition increases as fair to students, as long as the professors can teach the course in a concise and organized manner.

"I've had great classes during the summer, and others that were an absolute disaster," he said. "Their worth just depends. ... It's hard to put a price on education."

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.

Southern Oregon University student Steve Spitz, 23, expresses his opinion on the summer tuition increase Friday outside of Hannon Library in Ashland. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore - Julia Moore