By Ryleigh Norgrove
On Thursday, March 8, the Oregon State Senate unanimously approved a bill requiring public universities to take student input on tuition and fee hikes.
The proposal requires schools to establish advisory boards that include students, including members of underserved groups to give input on fees and tuition. The bill also specifies certain information must be available to the aforementioned advisory board, and that they must be offered “meaningful opportunities to participate in process.” If the school decides to raise tuition or enrollment fees by more than five percent, the university will provide “written reports from advisory body” and “any other information or materials commission determines are necessary for commission to reach determination.”
The advisory board is also tasked with “document(ing) impacts of recommended resident tuition and mandatory enrollment fees,” before advising the president of the university in regards to resident tuition and mandatory enrollment fees.
Since Willamette is not a public university, it adheres to its own procedures and practices. On our campus, budget decisions (including tuition hikes and fees) are approved by the board of trustees with input from the University Council and the Student Budget Advisory Committee (SBAC.)
“I like the idea of us having a Student Advisory Committee, they’ve done a ton of good work this year. Listening to the stuff that [Jack] Wellman and the other students involved have said, they are doing a good job of motivating students about the budget,” said WU student Michelle Hicks.
In light of the recent decisions in regards to Bishop Wellness Center, students are unsure if there will be a raise in tuition for the upcoming school year.
“In general I feel like I am not well informed of the Willamette Campus and Community. I don’t feel as though there is as much information coming from the committee in regards to budget decisions,” said first year Oscar Wecker.
“I come from a household with a lacking income, so that could make it or break it for my decision to go to Willamette. I feel like the Bishop money is well spent, even though it is more money, it is going to get use for what it is,” said Wecker.
Over the past few years, Willamette’s tuition has steadily increased. “I think we all expect tuition to rise, every year, at any university, so I think the institution should think about how they should adjust to these issues because obviously it affects students negatively. We can’t keep raising tuition,” said first year Hope Heidman.
The SBAC stands to allow student input on major decisions such as tuition hikes and fee raises, with certain students privy to that information. This doesn’t just include members of ASWU or the SBAC, but other members of the WU community.
“While it is realistic that student leaders should expect that [criticism], you also have to understand the integrity of their job when they are holding information, because their jobs require them to have that,” said Hicks.
“For me, because I do have a lot of information that other students don’t have, it’s about communicating the things I know. Having that information is really important, but that’s only important if your sharing with other people,” said sophomore Claire Pockell-Wilson, a member of the Green Fund committee and Willamette Sustainability Institute, as well as an ASWU senator.
Student opinion is generally divided on the issue of transparency. “I do think that transparency is an issue and that it should be emphasized,” said Heidman.
So, while Willamette may not follow the Oregon legislature, its procedures are similar. “There are a ton of caveats, but the SBAC is doing the best they can for a rough situation, it’s obviously what the student body needs and is something that is incredibly necessary,” said Hicks.