Another tuition increase proposed at Southern Oregon University

Southern Oregon University students could see tuition increase again next year.

A tuition advisory committee consisting of faculty, staff, students and administrators met Monday morning and recommended a 5.8 percent tuition increase for the coming school year. That increase would require a student taking a full load of 15 hours to pay $2,180 per term, or $6,541 per a three-term school year.

The increase is not set in stone, but if it goes through, it will mark at least the fourth year in a row that tuition has gone up.

Jason Pennell, the director of governmental affairs for SOU's student government, said students are unhappy and are not going to settle for the increase, especially in light of a 9.9 percent increase they endured last year.

According to the tuition calculator on the school's website, the current price for a 15-credit term stands at $2,061 per term, or $6,183 per year. That's up from 2011-12, when tuition was set at $1,875 per term. The year before that, 2010-11, it stood at $1,755 per term.

Pushing it up yet again next year is "not going to work for students," Pennell said.

Several voiced concerns Wednesday on campus, their apprehensions ranging from excessive student loans that will have to be paid once graduated to finding a way to stay in school.

"Personally, I'm on student loans," said first-year student Dahon Sestrich. "I'm going to have to pay that back eventually."

Sestrich said he will borrow more until he graduates, then "hope for a job."

Amber Myer, a third-year student from Rogue River, said several of her friends have had to leave school during her time at SOU because they could not afford it.

First-year student Yahaira Padilla said the increase could cause her to change her college plans. Her schooling is currently paid for by scholarships and grants, but if tuition rises too steeply, her financial aid may not cover it, which could force her to think about going to nearby Rogue Community College.

"It's so high and keeps getting higher," she said.

Administration officials, including SOU President Mary Cullinan, point out that SOU has the second lowest tuition in the Oregon University System — only Eastern Oregon University is lower — and the proposed tuition increase is in line with what other schools are projecting.

Di Saunders, spokesperson for the Oregon University System, agreed that SOU's proposed increase appears to be similar with what she has heard other schools will present.

The process is still early, say all involved. Now that Cullinan has the tuition committee's proposal, the next step is for her to present that number to the OUS chancellor's office, Saunders said.

The chancellor then assesses the numbers, making sure they are within parameters set by the Legislature, Saunders said. In May, the presidents and vice presidents often come to speak about what went into arriving at each university's numbers.

In June, final figures are sent to the State Board of Higher Education for a vote, Saunders said.

— Vince Tweddell

Read more in Friday's paper.

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