Friday, February 19, 2016

Oregon universities considering tuition increases; UO eyes highest bump

The Oregonian
February 19, 2016
By Andrew Theen

Raising tuition every year has become a higher-education rite of passage, almost as predictable as graduation ceremonies.

But when Oregon lawmakers approved $665 million in general support for the state's seven public universities last summer, it was hailed one of the largest reinvestments in public education in decades. Maybe that would move the needle, and limit tuition hikes?

No such luck. University of Oregon has proposed an increase of nearly 4.8 percent for in-state undergraduate students starting next fall, and the state's other publics are lining up for their own hikes.

That's because state support for public universities is far outpaced these days by contributions from student tuition. When schools, then, need more money to pay for staff, services, scholarships or other needs, they turn to students rather than the government.

"We're the lesser payer than student-tuition dollars," Ben Cannon, executive director of the state's Higher Education Coordinating Commission, said of state funding. "That's the ratio that's really problematic when you're trying to figure out, 'Gosh, why a 4 or 5 percent tuition increase?'"
Cannon's agency is alerted if a university wants to raise tuition by more than 3 percent, and the state's higher education commission must approve tuition requests of 5 percent or more.

But independent boards of trustees at each university are responsible for approving tuition plans.
The Oregon Student Association, the statewide nonpartisan nonprofit, asked the universities last year not to raise tuition by more than 3 percent for the 2016-17 school year. Daniel McCall, OSA's spokesman, said some students are frustrated that many universities appear to be forging ahead with higher rates, anyway.

"It can be especially hard on first-generation students and low-income students," he said of tuition increases. Those students may be less inclined to enroll in courses when the costs go up, he said, especially if they're working multiple jobs.

Cannon said "sizeable tuition increases," like those being considered at some schools, are a concern but that they don't capture the whole story. Affordability is best achieved by minimizing tuition increases, ramping up financial aid and investing in student successes through on campus services and programs.

"We've got a lot of students who are starting college, taking on some debt and not completing," Cannon said. "And frankly, even if their tuition was lowered, if they're not getting the support they need to graduate, it's unaffordable."

University of Oregon President Michael H. Schill said in a letter to students, staff and faculty Feb. 9 that the recommendation to raise tuition was not made rashly, but is necessary to help UO achieve its mission.

"To achieve excellence, we must invest in faculty hiring, research infrastructure, and student access," he wrote.

The proposed increases vary by school, and some proposals are still in flux.

Here's what we know as of n ow about plans at the state universities (estimated annual tuition is based on a 15 credit per term class load for three terms. Costs don't include annual student fees, room and board or other costs):

What: Proposed 4.8 percent tuition bump for in-state undergrads, a $405 annual increase. Out of state undergraduates will see a 4.5 percent increase, more than $1,350 annually.
When: The UO Board of Trustees will discuss the proposal March 3.
What money does: According to a press release, more than half of the estimated $16.9 million in additional tuition dollars will pay for staff and faculty pay increases required through labor agreements and increased medical costs. Another $2.75 million is earmarked for information technology improvements on campus, with $2.5 million more reserved for faculty hiring. UO will also dedicate $1.4 million to financial aid programs.

What: OSU is considering a 2.2 percent tuition increase for in-state undergraduate students, roughly $180 annually. OSU is not proposing an increase for out of state students partly "to encourage growth" in enrollment. (Out-of-state students already pay far higher rates than in-state ones.)
When: Board of Trustees will debate proposal March 31.
What money does: OSU's proposal will cover faculty salary increases, energy costs and health insurance, according to documents. Despite the increase, "OSU will not recover all of its costs of operation."

What: PSU is proposing a 3.7 percent tuition and fee increase for in-state undergraduates, and a 3.5 percent increase for non-Oregonians.          
When: PSU's board will discuss the plan March 31.
What money does: According to PSU, without increasing student fees and tuition, the school would face a $6 million shortfall. With the proposed increase, PSU will hire faculty, advisers and staff as well as cover personnel costs.

Southern Oregon University:
What: SOU is still developing a proposed tuition rate, but is considering a 2.7 percent increase for in-state undergraduate students. School leaders will adopt a formal recommendation in March.

Eastern Oregon University:
What: EOU is also still developing a tuition plan, but proposals could vary from 2 to 4 percent increases. A final plan will be discussed and approved in March.

Western Oregon University:
What: WOU is considering a 2 to 4 percent tuition increase. In a letter to school administrators this month, student leaders said increases of 4 to 5 percent "would be manageable" for students. 

Oregon Institute of Technology: The Klamath Falls-based school will recommend a 3 percent tuition increase for in-state undergraduates.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Today’s Freshman Class Is the Most Likely to Protest in Half a Century

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Courtney Kueppers
February 11, 2016

Today’s college freshmen are more likely to participate in a student-led protest than each of the nearly five decades of classes that preceded them, according to survey results released on Thursday. That includes the college freshmen of the late 1960s and early 70s, an era storied for its on-campus political activism. 

Nearly one in 10 freshmen said there was a very good chance they would participate in a protest in college, according to the annual Freshman Survey by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program, part of the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles.

The racial unrest in recent years — including police shootings nationwide and protests on college campuses — has clearly made a mark on students’ psyches. Among black students, 16 percent said they were very likely to demonstrate while in college. But students of all races reported being more likely to demonstrate than just a year before.
A report on the survey, "The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2015," is based on responses from 141,189 first-time, full-time freshmen at 199 four-year colleges and universities in the United States.

Below are five takeaways about the behaviors and beliefs of today’s freshman class.

1. Students’ heightened interest in political activism could make them a force in this year’s elections (and it’s likely to be on the left).
Sixty percent of freshmen surveyed said there was "a very good chance" they would vote in a federal, state, or local election while in college. That’s up nearly 10 percentage points from 2014 (though it’s worth noting that in 2014 a heated presidential campaign was not underway).
And when they get to the polls, they are likely to vote for candidates on the left. Thirty-four percent identify as "liberal" or "far left," a share similar to the figure in 2008, which was the highest since 1973. About 22 percent of respondents identify as "conservative" or "far right." That figure is down from about 26 percent of students in 2006.
Not only do students plan to vote, but they also have a desire to bring about change. When it comes to influencing the political structure, 33 percent of black students saw it as a "very important" or "essential" life objective, compared with 27 percent of Latinos and 20 percent of white students.

2. Pell Grants are vital for students, but they’re not enough, especially for women.
For the first time, the survey included questions about Pell Grants, the bedrock piece of federal financial aid for low-income students.
The vast majority of students without Pell Grants (73 percent) said they relied on family resources to pay at least part of their first-year bills, but just 32 percent of Pell Grant recipients did the same.
And they worry about making ends meet. Eighty-four percent of Pell Grant recipients reported concern about paying for college, compared with 57 percent of nonrecipients.
Women are more concerned about paying for college than men are, especially women at historically black colleges, where 79 percent of women said they had "some" or "major" concerns about paying for school.

3. LGBTQ students more frequently feel overwhelmed and depressed.
Just 25 percent of students who identify their sexual orientation as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or "other" rate their emotional health as "above average" or in the "highest 10 percent," compared with 53 percent of heterosexual students. (For the first time in the survey’s history, students could identify their sexual orientation and indicate if they are transgender.)
About 46 percent of students who identified as queer said they frequently felt depressed, compared with 8 percent of heterosexual students.
Among all students, about 10 percent reported feeling frequently depressed, a figure virtually unchanged from the year before.

4. On pace with societal trends, students continue to be less likely to affiliate with a specific religion.
This was the first year that students were given the option to select agnostic or atheist as affiliations. Nearly 30 percent of incoming freshmen said they were agnostic, atheist, or "none." The percentage of students identifying with a specific religion stands at 71 percent.
Asian students are the least likely of the survey’s racial and ethnic groups to affiliate with a particular religion, while black students are by far the most likely — at 86 percent, at least 10 percentage points higher than any other group.
Queer students are more likely than their peers to identify as agnostic or atheist.

5. More than ever, students are paying attention to the job outlook and grad-school admissions in their undergraduate search.
Job outlook has always been an important factor in students’ college choices, and it continues to become more so. This year 60 percent of students, an all-time high, said whether a college’s graduates land good jobs was a "very important" consideration in choosing a school.
Over all, 38 percent of students said they considered grad-school admissions when choosing an undergraduate destination, indicating steady aspirations for advanced degrees.
Additionally, nearly 70 percent of students say it is "very important" that their school of choice has a "good academic reputation."

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Report: More Oregonians finishing community college while non-residents boost universities

By Andrew Theen
The Oregonian, February 05, 2016

Out-of-state residents accounted for nearly one-third of the degrees and certificates awarded at Oregon's seven public universities during the 2014-15 school year, according to new figures released by a state agency Friday.

The total number of non-Oregonians completing four-year degrees or advanced programs increased by 7.5 percent from the 2013-14 year while the number of Oregon residents finishing programs fell by about 1.4 percent, according to the first annual completion report produced by the state's Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

Overall, Oregon colleges and universities awarded 3 percent more certificates and degrees during the 2014-15 school year than in the year before. More people, in a sense, are getting their degrees, than ever before.

The data are a reflection of one of the key strategies for Oregon's largest schools in the face of a paucity of state funding (despite the $700 million injection of money during the 2015-17 biennium): pull in more money from out-of-state residents' higher-priced tuition.

Ben Cannon, HECC's executive director, said the grand total of more than 45,151 completed programs at community colleges and four-year schools is exciting news for Oregon.

"It indicates pretty clearly the progress that we're making toward our state goals for higher ed," Cannon said. "Are we making enough progress quickly enough? Probably not, but we're certainly trending in the right direction."

Cannon's office compiled figures from Oregon's seven public universities and 17 community colleges, including the number of bachelor's, associate's, master's, certificate and other professional degrees awarded to both Oregonians and non-resident students during the 2013-14 and 14-15 school years.

The data show more Oregonians are completing community college programs - 19,783 Oregon residents finished associate's degrees or certificate programs in 2014-15 - a 4.4 percent jump.

Cannon said the figures are, to some extent, a product of the ongoing effect of the Great Recession, which led to marked increases in community college enrollment.

While Cannon said it was exciting to see more students' complete programs, he would not be surprised to see the figures decline somewhat in the coming years as more people find jobs.

Community colleges play a big role in preparing the workforce, and Cannon said the completion growth could have wider economic ramifications.

He described in-state student completion rates as "basically flat."

"Our commission would be concerned if it appeared that nonresident students were crowding out resident students," Cannon said of the two-year comparison. "There really isn't evidence of that."

Here are some key takeaways from the 2014-15 data set:
Most out-of-state bachelor's degrees awarded:
1)    University of Oregon: 1,982
2)    Oregon State University: 1,282
3)    Portland State University: 588
Most in-state bachelor's degrees awarded:
1)    Portland State University: 3,528
2)    Oregon State University: 3,520
3)    University of Oregon: 2,733
Most out-of-state master's/doctoral/professional degrees awarded
1)    University of Oregon: 747
2)    Oregon State University: 687
3)    Portland State University: 551
Most in-state master's/doctoral/professional degrees awarded
1)    Portland State University: 1,204
2)    Oregon State University: 534
3)    University of Oregon: 470
Most certificates/associate's degrees awarded:
1)    Portland Community College: 5,729
2)    Chemeketa Community College: 2,358
3)    Mt. Hood Community College: 2,168
4)    Lane Community College: 1,720
5)    Clackamas Community College: 1,408