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State increase could ease SOU tuition hike

Southern Oregon University may be able to scale back a 12 percent tuition hike to 9 percent thanks to additional funding for higher education being considered by the Oregon Legislature.

"It's great news for us and great news for our students," SOU Director of Community and Media Relations Joe Mosley said.

Gov. Kate Brown had proposed a two-year, $667 million budget for Oregon's public universities, prompting SOU's board of trustees to budget for a 12 percent tuition hike that would take effect this fall. SOU joined other universities in lobbying for additional money to blunt tuition increases, which varied at each school.

Legislation that recently cleared the Senate allocates $737 million for universities. The House must still approve the funding.

Mosley said SOU officials are grateful legislators are listening to the universities' message that higher education is critically important to Oregon's future.

He said SOU already has cut $14 million from its budget and eliminated 40 positions over the past three years as part of a retrenchment plan.

"We were at a point where we couldn't reduce any more without decimating programs. It would have been brutal," Mosley said.

He said SOU officials anticipated a tuition increase would be hard for some students to absorb. They set aside an additional $500,000 to help the most economically vulnerable students, boosting that pool of money to $4 million.

"We are encouraging anyone who anticipates having difficulty with tuition increases to contact our financial advisers about that pool and many other sources of financial aid that are available," Mosley said.

For more information, call 541-552-6600, email finaid@sou.edu or see inside.sou.edu/enrollment/financial-aid.

While universities could get $70 million more than initially proposed by the governor, community colleges are looking at a $20 million increase. Brown proposed $550 million, while legislators favor $570 million. 

Rogue Community College spokesman Grant Walker said the increase is very welcome, but it falls far short of needed state funding.

The Oregon Community College association had requested $640 million in state funding in order to maintain current educational offerings to Oregon students and to meet Public Employee Retirement System requirements, he said.

RCC must increase tuition by 4.8 percent, but will not raise student fees, Walker said.

To help students, RCC is aggressively pursuing Open Educational Resources to reduce student costs. OERs are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or created by instructors for their classes. This could greatly reduce the cost of books. RCC is also actively seeking more sources for scholarships for students, Walker said.

For information on financial aid, see web.roguecc.edu/financial-aid.

— Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.