Schill asks advisory group to consider guaranteed tuition

UO entrance sign

University of Oregon President Michael H. Schill has asked the Tuition and Fee Advisory Board to consider and analyze the concept of guaranteed tuition during its winter meetings.

The move comes after the Board of Trustees of the University of Oregon expressed “real interest” in the concept as a way to provide more financial certainty to students and their families.

“People want to feel when they come here that they know what the cost is going to be,” Schill told the advisory board.

Under the program, all new undergraduate students entering the university would be charged a tuition rate and administratively controlled mandatory fees that would remain fixed for five years, ending the current practice of annual tuition increases.

Schill said he would like to extend guaranteed tuition rates to current UO students as well, although he acknowledged that the transition for existing cohorts might be complex.

“The devil’s in the details,” Schill said. “I want (the advisory board) to weigh the pros and cons. No decision has been made on anything.”

The Tuition and Fee Advisory Board, an advisory group made up of faculty members, staff and students, will make a recommendation to the president on guaranteed tuition and potential rates for new and existing students by mid-February. If it recommends against adopting a guaranteed tuition program, the advisory board will prepare its customary proposal for annual tuition increases.

The advisory board’s winter meeting schedule can be found online.

Roger Thompson, vice president for student services and enrollment management, said a shift to guaranteed tuition could help the university in student recruitment and retention. The five-year limit on the guarantee would also be an incentive for on-time graduation.

The model comes with risks, Thompson said, which means the university might consider establishing a reserve fund to buttress a potential new program.

But the trend of flat or decreasing state investment in higher education is unlikely to change, Thompson said. That means more and more schools around the country have to look at creative solutions, like guaranteed tuition, to help students manage tuition costs.

Thompson said that a guaranteed tuition program would protect the value of student’s academic scholarships. Those scholarships are typically fixed dollar awards and therefore lose buying power as tuition rises.

“That’s a powerful statement the university could make on affordability,” Thompson said.

UO students have an opportunity to learn more about guaranteed tuition at the board’s student forum Tuesday, Jan. 14. The forum will take place from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Erb Memorial Union in the Redwood Auditorium. Dinner will be provided.

For more information about tuition setting at the UO, visit https://tuition.uoregon.edu/

By Saul Hubbard, University Communications