By Aaron Newton
Polk County Itemizer-Observer
Incoming students at Western Oregon University may want to send a thank you letter to the Oregon Legislature.
On the last day of the 2013 Legislative Assembly, the legislature earmarked an additional $15 million to the Oregon University System’s $761.5 million operating budget to “buy down” the recently approved tuition increases for the 2013-15 biennium.
With the new influx of money, the Oregon State Board of Higher Education on Friday approved a reduction to a 3.5 percent average increase for OUS schools.
On June 21 the Board of Higher Education approved a 4.8 percent average tuition increase across OUS schools.
WOU had the lowest increase across the system at 1.3 percent — 0 percent for returning Tuition Promise students, 7 percent for incoming Tuition Promise students and 3.4 percent for students not taking part in the Tuition Promise program.
Western students not taking part in the university’s Tuition Promise program will see no decrease because the June increase was not above the 3.5 percent threshold.
In amending the OUS budget, the legislature mandated that no school may exceed a base rate average increase of 3.5 percent.
However, incoming students taking part in the Tuition Promise program will now see a 5.7 percent increase — a $2 increase per credit hour for each student.
The $15 million infusion of new money was spread across the seven schools and one branch campus in the system.
Western won’t know the exact dollar amount it receives out of the $15 million until the fall enrollment numbers are in, Stephen Scheck, vice president for academic affairs, said.
“It really is kind of a sticky wicket in terms of how this all plays out at Western,” Scheck said, “in part because universities that had requested really large tuition increases have more buy down than universities like Western that didn’t request large tuition increases.”