Tuition Plateau Charges November 22nd, 2004
November 22, 2004
To: Faculty, Staff, and Students
From: Edward J. Ray, President
Re: Tuition Charges in the Plateau Range
I am writing regarding my decision concerning the use of fees in the plateau range of 13-18 credit hours for full-time students. Over the course of the last seven weeks I have discussed this matter with numerous groups of faculty, staff, and students, including the Cabinet, the Provost’s Council, Department Chairs, the student Senates, the MUPC, the Student Alumni Association, the Barometer Editorial Board, and the University Senate, among others. Most striking about these discussions was the thoughtfulness of the dialogue. Support for the elimination of plateau range charges came from students but also from faculty and administrators who worried that the charges would discourage students from getting as broad an education as we want them to have. Arguments in favor of the charges came from faculty and administrators but also from students who worried that the financial loss of plateau range fees would negatively affect the availability and quality of course offerings and the long-term financial well-being of the university.
The arguments for eliminating the plateau and charging for all credits are fairly straightforward. All credits cost money to offer and, while almost all of our students are full-time students, free credits for full-time students imply higher priced credits for part-time students. In addition, we find ourselves in a tight financial situation on top of years of budget cuts and declining contributions from state funds – a trend that is likely to continue. Our best estimate is that we will have to raise tuition by 5% and distribute budget cuts next year of 1% or more even if we make no change in the plateau charges. Eliminating the plateau charges will create an additional funding gap of between $2.4 million and $4 million for the next biennium, which translates into a reduction of 0.5% to 1% of the General Funds budget per year. These reductions are on top of whatever reductions the legislature may add in order to deal with a projected state shortfall in revenue of $1 billion.
Nonetheless, I am persuaded that the best path forward for Oregon State University is to eliminate the remaining plateau range charges for credits in the 13 to 16 range. The university will develop plans to sustain the losses in funding implied in a way that protects the availability of classes and the quality of our academic programs and student services to the fullest extent possible. As a result of this policy, students will be able to take the 15 credit hours they need each quarter to graduate in four years without paying more than the advertised full-time tuition rate.
This decision is not intended to reflect on decisions at other universities or to be used to frame debates on other campuses. This decision simply reflects the belief that in our campus culture the availability of the plateau is sufficiently important to faculty, staff, and students to warrant the decision to eliminate those charges for credits between 13 and 16 and to manage the reduction in revenue that will result. In effect, the costs of eliminating the originally proposed $50 charge will be born equally by students through the additional tuition increase last year and the university through the cuts that will be necessitated this year. While this action clearly compounds our financial difficulties, I hope that it will strengthen the sense of common cause and a willingness to work together among students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of this university to increase our financial resources and advance our strategic plan.
The elimination of the plateau charges will take effect with the beginning of autumn quarter 2005. This change assumes a 5% tuition increase for next year and no reduction in state funding for higher education as a result of the 2005 legislative session. If state funding to higher education is reduced, we may have to defer the implementation of the plateau at least one year. We anticipate discussion with the Ways and Means Committee throughout the session on the relationship between state investments in higher education and tuition levels.
This action is one of several regarding tuition and budgets to be addressed at OSU this year. The second tuition issue that must be addressed is to ensure that any changes in resource fees are determined as part of the overall budget process in the early spring and that changes in proposed resource fees are discussed with students well in advance of the end of spring quarter.
I want to thank the campus community for the active discussions we have had and for the concern expressed over this important issue. I will look forward to continuing this participative process for addressing future campus-wide issues.