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Oregon universities seek state funding to slow rising tuition costs

Students walk across Oregon State University's Corvallis campus in this Oct. 27, 2017, file photo.
Bryan M. Vance
Oregon State University. Steve Clark, the Vice President of University Relations & Marketing, said that operational costs have risen because of inflation.

The leaders of Oregon’s public universities say they need more state funding, or they will have to significantly raise the cost of tuition.

Oregon’s public universities are requesting $1.05 billion for operations in the next state biennial budget. This would be over $100 million more than what Governor Tina Kotek proposed earlier this year.

Steve Clark is a spokesperson for OSU. He said state funding has lagged behind inflation, and student tuition has had to fill in the gaps.

“We prompt students to borrow more, or in some cases to work one, two or three jobs during the school year to be able to afford their contribution to the cost of higher education,” said Clark.

Last year, all seven public universities approved tuition increases. And Clark said OSU now relies on tuition money more heavily than in previous decades.

At a hearing last month, staff at UO and Southern Oregon University told legislators they’re also worried about layoffs without increased funding. Clark said staffing cuts at OSU are unlikely because enrollment there is still growing.

Clark said additional state funding would help OSU manage its existing costs and expand mental health services for students. UO spokesperson Kay Jarvis said the increased funding would be an investment in the state, citing UO's impact on the local economy.

Oregon’s next budget is scheduled to take effect July 1. However, the timeline and outcome of that budget-making process has been thrown into doubt as Republican lawmakers boycott the Senate floor.

Nathan Wilk joined the KLCC News Team in 2022. He is a graduate from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Born in Portland, Wilk began working in radio at a young age, serving as a DJ and public affairs host across Oregon.