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California’s brain drain is Oregon’s gain

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

By Jacq Lacy

Out-of-state tuition dollars are saving the Oregon University System from financial strains and keeping tuition hikes lower here than in neighboring states. Since 2006, the non-Oregon student population has grown by 49% and Californian attendance has increased by 76%. This influx has become a vital subsidy for public universities, replacing vanishing Oregon general fund dollars.

Source: Oregon University System

“With Californians, the budget increases because they pay three times more. For every out-of-state student we are able to pay for two more Oregon students to come to school,” Diane Saunders, OUS director of communications, said. “Campuses don’t have to raise tuition to the same level” to offset general fund higher education budget cuts.

Last month, the Oregon Legislature cut the general fund dollars for the OUS budget for the second time this year. Legislative cuts have risen to $53 million this year, challenging universities’ efforts to keep education accessible to low and middle-income families.

Large enrollment numbers have filled the gaps, with particularly high growth in out-of-state students, said Jay Kenton, OUS vice chancellor for finance and administration.

and California are experiencing a student exodus due to 14% tuition increases.  California has also capped enrollment to save operating costs, cutting an average of 2,000-3,000 students per campus.

By comparison, Oregon students will experience a 6.2% tuition increase, leaving the cost of the average Oregon university less than public schools to the north and south. Even with out-of-state tuition costs, federal student aid dollars balance the price to be only about $1,000-$2,000 more than in-state tuition.

Oregon university administrators stated that the rapidly increasing out-of-state student population will not replace spots normally allotted for residents because fewer in-state students are applying. That's because the dropout rate has increased so much in Oregon that the high school graduation rate is down. The state’s graduation rate fell from 76% in 2007-2008 to 66% in 2008-2009.

“We haven’t denied anyone from in-state, just because we wanted more out-of-state,” Kate Peterson, Oregon State University assistant provost for enrollment management, said. “The real opportunity for growth is transfer students within state and students from out-of-state. Growth of in-state (students) will be much slower than outside because we have a finite number of Oregon applicants.”

Roger Thompson, University of Oregon vice provost for enrollment management, says the influx of non-Oregon students is a good thing.

“Discourse gets better in our classrooms, in our residence halls,” Thompson said. “One of the real benefits is that [out-of-state] tuition dollars do help to cover some of the costs, not just theirs but every student’s tuition dollars, when the state is providing an ever shrinking portion of our budget.”

The diversity enhances financial stability and achieves a better resident-to-non-resident balance, Agnes Hoffman, Portland State University associate vice provost for enrollment management said.

OUS board members will meet Friday at PSU to agree upon the 13% cut to be distributed evenly across university campuses. Currently, caps for non-resident students are unnecessary to protect education accessibility to Oregon residents, officials said. Caps could be implemented if Oregon students lose access to state schools.

But university officials say they will always consider Oregon residents their first priority. 

“We remain the University of Oregon. We have a strong desire to educate the future work force of Oregon,” Thompson said.

Jacq Lacy is an associate writer for Oregon Business.


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