Letter from President Schott: Good News for Funding and Tuition
August 2, 2017
Dear SOU students:
I’m particularly pleased today to share several pieces of good news – relatively speaking – considering the challenges our campus worked through together this winter and spring. Most of my update for you comes by way of the Oregon Legislature, and it will benefit every student at SOU.
Thanks to the Oregon Legislature and Governor Brown, SOU’s tuition for the academic year that begins in September will not be as high as we had all anticipated. Our rates have been adjusted to reflect a 9 percent increase over what you paid during the most recent academic year, rather than the 12 percent that was approved this spring by our Board of Trustees and the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission.
I certainly recognize that a 9 percent tuition increase is a difficult burden, and one that in most other years would be hard for any of us to accept. But our budget for the coming year was based on the likelihood of a state higher education budget that was $100 million short of the break-even level, adjusted for costs that are beyond our control. That would have required the 12 percent tuition increase at SOU, given our inability to make additional cuts without damaging the integrity of our academic and student support programs.
I am delighted to report that legislators heard our message – that higher education is critically important to the state’s future – and increased the allocation for Oregon’s seven public universities by $70 million in the session’s closing days. All of the SOU students who supported our efforts, and especially those who traveled to Salem and shared their stories with lawmakers, earned my gratitude for the important roles they played in this accomplishment. As a result, we are able to keep our promise to you and “step down” SOU’s 2017-18 tuition increase to 9 percent, or an additional $13.63 per credit hour for SOU students who are Oregon residents and similar increases for non-residents.
That increase is painful for all of us, and serves as a reminder that much work remains to be done to prioritize higher education in Oregon, bring costs within our control and make the state’s tax structure responsive to its residents’ needs.
In the meantime, we are committed to access for all students, and have built into SOU’s budget a $500,000 increase in institutional aid for students least able to afford the increased tuition cost.
Athletics allocation from lottery
SOU’s Athletics Department, along with those of Oregon’s six other public universities, won a reprieve when the Legislature voted to renew Sports Action Lottery funding for intercollegiate athletics through the 2017-19 biennium. Legislators allocated a total of $8.2 million for the seven universities, and SOU will receive about $500,000 – with about $360,000 earmarked for team travel and other operational expenses. About $100,000 will support institutional scholarships through the Admissions Department.
Governor Brown did not include the funding in her initial budget recommendation, but the Legislature restored it late in the session.
The Legislature authorized $6.1 million in bond funding for some much-needed renovation work at SOU’s Central Hall. That project – which will include foundation improvements, seismic upgrades and general modernization – will extend a campus-wide facilities upgrade that has been underway for several years. The Theatre Arts Building renovation and expansion will wrap up beginning this fall, with the JPR annex expected to be completed early next year. Our new athletic pavilion and Student Recreation Center are on track to open in January.
Best summer wishes,
President, Southern Oregon University