SOU Student’s Lobby For Tuition Reform

Erika Soderstrom, Staff Writer

Southern Oregon University students took the fight over a possible 12 percent tuition increase to the state capitol in Salem. SOU joined Eastern Oregon, Western Oregon, and Oregon Tech to lobby against a tuition increase that could pressure many students to drop out or take out further loans.

Students joined fellow TRU (technical and regional universities) schools, May 16 to lobby for increased funding. The schools collectively requested one hundred million dollars in funding to reduce the tuition increase from twelve to eight percent. “I think we all made a change by talking to the Legislators,” said SOU student athlete Ana Rad.

Among the various topics students from all universities discussed with state representatives, schools focused on lobbying against tuition increase and to preserve the sports lottery, which provides funding for athletic programs.

The possibility of a great tuition increase creates fear for many students. “If tuition is increased by 12 percent I’m not going to be able to stay here,” said Rad. With the possible tuition increase students who are already facing financial challenges will be encountering greater hurdles ahead.

“I don’t think that college should be free, but I do think it should be affordable,” said SOU student athlete Hannah Schweighardt. A possible 12 percent tuition increase challenges the idea of affordable college. Schweighardt, thinking out loud said “that’s going to be a whole other loan I’ll have to take out. There are people at SOU already struggling to pay [tuition].”  

School presidents and mascots from TRU schools joined their students in lobbying for both increased funding and the sports lottery. SOU students left Ashland Monday to travel to the capitol and lobby by Tuesday.

“It was a busy day we woke up at 5am and had to drive there. Waited outside the capital for an hour to greet the representatives,” said Schweighardt. Following that SOU students had a meeting with SOU’s president Linda Schott. Senator Alan DeBoer then met with the students to discuss education bills up for voting. Students were sent off to meet with their representatives and lobby.

“I got to go to six different Legislators and sit down with them and ask them for the funding that the school wanted. And talk to them about what they were willing to give to us,” said Rad. Students were paired with students from other TRU universities, then sent in groups of five to talk to the state Legislatures.

“I think they’re going to approve what we’re asking for and they’re going to be on board. I hope we made a change,” said Rad.

Following the lobbying at Salem, President Schott and the Oregon Council of Presidents sent a letter to Governor Brown and the Legislature on May 23 advising the State Capital to spend more on Oregon public universities. In the letter the Oregon Council of Presidents urged the capital to invest in higher education saying that “if the Legislature is unable to accomplish that [investing in higher education] in the coming months, we will have failed future Oregonians and we will leave a legacy that will haunt our classrooms, workforce, and economy for generations to come.”

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