March 10, 2020
Dear University of Oregon community,
I am writing today to inform you of the recommendation I intend to make to the UO Board of Trustees regarding tuition rates and mandatory student fees for the upcoming academic year. Since my last message on the topic, I have had the chance to hear directly from students at an open forum, read all 108 messages submitted via the online feedback form, and talked with representatives from a variety of campus stakeholder groups. I am generally endorsing the recommendations of the Tuition and Fee Advisory Board (TFAB) on all graduate and undergraduate tuition rates and mandatory fees, with a slight modification to lower the recommended tuition increase for resident undergraduates. While I know my decision will not make everyone happy, I greatly appreciate all the thoughtful and valuable input I received from so many of you. Your feedback and counsel truly influenced my thinking.
Let me start by focusing on undergraduate tuition and stating that I fully endorse the new guaranteed tuition model proposed by TFAB, which is comprised of students, faculty, and staff. The group worked tirelessly for months, conducted 11 open meetings, participated in three student forums, and analyzed dozens and dozens of tuition scenarios to deliver an innovative plan that is a dramatic and positive evolution in the way the UO approaches tuition for undergraduates. Under this new model recommended by TFAB, tuition rates, differential tuition, administratively controlled fees, and the international student fee rates for next year’s incoming class would be locked, frozen, for five years — giving students peace of mind that tuition will not increase during their time at the UO (assuming they graduate in five years). This provides families with financial predictability for planning purposes and protects the value of financial aid packages. It is a big deal.
The place that I will deviate slightly from TFAB relates to size of the in-state tuition increase for next year’s incoming class. I appreciate why TFAB suggested that tuition be raised by 10.75 percent, but I intend to recommend a tuition increase of 9.75 percent for undergraduate students from Oregon who start at the UO next year. I made the decision to go with a lower tuition increase not because I believe TFAB’s analysis was wrong, but because it is especially important this year to keep tuition levels as affordable as possible. This is as low as we could go while ensuring the new financial model would continue to work. And, while that rate might seem high relative to past tuition increases, remember that next year’s cohort of new resident students will not face another tuition increase for five years. For Oregon residents who start attending the UO next year, their tuition rate will be frozen at $254.62 per credit hour for five years and will not go up.
For new nonresident undergraduates — also included in the guaranteed tuition model — I intend to accept TFAB’s recommendation for a 7.5 percent tuition increase, which equates to a per-credit-hour rate of $820.23 for the next five years. For both resident and nonresident students, I am also accepting the TFAB recommendation that we freeze differential tuition rates for the Robert D. Clark Honors College and Charles H. Lundquist College of Business. I am supporting the honors college differential tuition rate increase of 9.75 percent next year, which will then be locked for five years; this differential will increase by the same rate as base undergraduate tuition as is standard practice. I am recommending no increase for the business tuition differential. The college proposed one, but I believe that the relative newness of the differential for business, the relative size of the increase, and the desire for more time for consultation regarding the increase are all reasons to not forward that proposal at this time.
The student fees included in the guarantee are for technology, the EMU, health center services, the recreation center, and campus buildings. The Incidental Fee, sometimes called the I-Fee, would not be included because it is set and administered by student government. I encourage the Associated Students of the UO (ASUO) to consider next year implementing a guaranteed I-Fee, which would help our students plan for their total cost of education.
In addition to helping students and families, I believe this new guaranteed tuition and fee model will enhance the UO’s ability to attract and retain students. Several peer institutions, including the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Arizona, already offer guaranteed tuition, and the University of California System is considering a similar model. Many prospective undergraduates who are looking at the UO also consider these other institutions, and offering a guaranteed tuition model will help the UO compete on a level playing field.
I also am hopeful that adoption of this model will improve the campus climate for students here in Eugene, because undergraduates will not have to worry about whether yearly tuition increases will price them out of receiving a world-class education at the UO. Instead, they can focus their time and energy on their studies.
I am not forgetting current students and want to provide them with a similar level of tuition certainty. I intend to accept and forward to the board TFAB’s recommendation that we lock tuition increases for current resident and nonresident undergraduates at 3 percent per year for each of the next four years. Given that the average annual tuition increase for resident undergraduates at the UO over the last decade has been in excess of 5 percent, I believe committing to a significantly lower annual tuition rate for the next four years provides a similar level of assurance as the guaranteed tuition model and serves as a statement about our commitment to affordability.
Thanks again to so many who took the time to let me know their thoughts and feedback on tuition. And, thank you to all of the faculty members, administrators, staff, and students who gave up so much of their time to serve on TFAB.
Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law