Southern Oregon University is in dire straights this year due to a combination of reduced state funding and an increase in university services, according Craig Morris, SOU vice president of Finance and Administration.
Morris spoke to the Associated Students of Southern Oregon University Senate on Tuesday, Jan. 31, where he explained the dire situation SOU is in and what we can do to sustain employment, enrollment, and keep classes small as time goes on.
With state funding to SOU at a low of $13.7 million this year, and an increase in employee services after years of furlough, SOU is nearing the state-mandated 5 percent standard fund requirement for next year. In other words, the university needs to have 5 percent of their operating costs on hand at all times, and SOU is running dangerously close to that rock-bottom figure.
The state will only be giving the university $11.4 million in funding next year. In order to meet a federal stimulus requirement, however, the state has to pay the university $1.5 million by the last day of this year, which according to Morris will come out of next year’s budget, making that $11.4 million figure even smaller.
“In 2009 and 2010 when we received 16.7 million dollars in state appropriations, we thought the sky was falling,” said Morris, explaining the amount of funding received by SOU from the state hasn’t been this low since 1994.
A ten percent tuition increase has been mentioned as a possibility to offset the reduction in state funding, but the increase would likely have a negative effect on enrollment, especially because the university’s growing California student population is choosing to come here because of the low tuition costs at Oregon schools compared to California schools.
The administration of SOU is still looking for new ways to address the financial problems in other ways than just increasing the tuition and reducing employment.
For example, reducing the student incidental fee would balance out a potential increase in tuition, while still providing the university with direct funding. Another proposed way of increasing their funding would to eliminate the requirement of health services insurance for students attending SOU, as most students have suppliers through their own or their parent’s employer.
The financial problems aren’t limited to SOU, nearly every institution in Oregon is noticing an impact from low state funding. Students at SOU are at an advantage however, as there are many organizations on campus that advocate for student interests, whether it be to textbook companies, financial aid or administration.
“We need to make sure everyone’s voice is heard,” said Jonathon Eldridge, vice president of Student Affairs.