Proposed bill aims to freeze in-state tuition for two years

House Bill 3381 is currently in the House Education Committee and a hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Posted: Mar 22, 2019 7:00 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Students, professors and school leaders are weighing in on a proposed bill that would freeze in-state tuition for Oregon's public universities and community colleges for two years.

House Bill 3381 is currently in the House Education Committee and a hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Lane Community College student body president Nick Keough said something needs to be done to keep the college affordable. He said right now he's paying $113.50 per credit hour, and as a full-time student that comes out to $1,500 a term.

"To afford going to school here I've had to work multiple jobs at once," Keough said. "There has been times where I've had to hold off on eating for a few days to afford a textbook at the start of the semester."

Officials at LCC are considering raising tuition again by another $6 per credit hour, but they haven't made a decision. Records on LCC's website show that in 2011 in-state tuition was $83 per credit hour.

In a statement, Joan Aschim, a spokeswoman for the college, wrote: "LCC shares that frustration and considers tuition and fee increases only after taking other measures such as program or service reductions. Adjusted for inflation, the state investment in community college remains what it was 20 years ago. Currently, the state’s proposed $590 million for Oregon’s 17 community colleges is $57 million less than the colleges need to maintain current service levels."

Meanwhile, the University of Oregon and it's students and faculty are also weighing in.

Student Dominic Bernardo said the bill is welcomed. The Eugene native is living at his parent's house as he attends the university.

"It's difficult to see a savings account dwindle," Bernardo said.

Data on the university's website found the cost of tuition has risen far faster than the rate of inflation since 1980. During the 1980-1981 school year, in-state tuition was $693. During the 2018-2019, it is was $9,765.

Terry Takahashi has taught biology at the university since 1986. He said he supports the proposed bill and would like to see the cost of higher education go down. He said he wants to see students focus on their studies and not have to worry about how they're going to pay for it. He said he's willing to take a pay cut to make it happen.

"It would be nice to get paid a million bucks. But getting paid less but the students benefiting is the best," Takahashi said. 

In a statement, Molly Blancett, the interim spokesperson for the university, wrote: "The university shares our student's concerns about the rising cost of a college degree. We are working together with students, faculty, staff and the business community to make the case in Salem that the state should invest in making a college education affordable and accessible for all Oregon students. We don’t believe a freeze is realistic, but we want to keep tuition increases as low as possible in the upcoming years."

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