Alyssa Sutton

The Student Voice and Transparency Act, House Bill 4141, has passed the Oregon House and Senate. The piece of legislation seeks to increase the transparency in university tuition-setting processes while giving students a voice.

The legislation would require each public university to establish a tuition advisory council to advise the university president regarding tuition and mandatory enrollment fees.

“We already have a pretty robust process for (setting) tuition,” said Tim Seydel, Eastern Oregon University’s vice president for university advancement.

He explained that EOU delivers presentations modeling several levels of tuition, speaks with the Associated Students of Eastern Oregon University, which is the university’s student government, and holds multiple forums around campus at different times and places to make sure students have a chance to attend.

Seydel said that the way Eastern currently conducts tuition rate increase proposals is effective for both the university and the students.

As it is, if a university is looking at increasing their undergraduate resident students’ tuition more than 5 percent, it must submit all written reports of the tuition advisory council to the Higher Education Coordinating
Commission, including dissenting opinions. Seydel said that while reporting a 5 percent increase to the HECC would not be new, the bill would require the university to form a tuition advisory council.

“We get that it might be challenging at other schools, but because of our size it won’t be as difficult,” Seydel said. He added that Eastern used to have a tuition advisory committee, but currently the university takes a more hands-on approach by directly communicating with students.

Seydel said forming an advisory board would have an impact on Eastern.

“We’d have to create that (advisory) body and provide some training,” he said.

The bill states that the advisory body has to be trained on the budget of the university, the mechanisms by which funds are appropriated by the Legislative Assembly to HECC for the university, and pertinent data regarding the correlation between the amount of resident tuition and mandatory enrollment fees charged by the university, to the amount of state appropriations that the commission allocates the university.

Additionally, the university must supply the tuition advisory council with plans on how the governing board and the university’s administration are managing the costs and how resident tuition and mandatory fees could be decreased if the university receives more money from the state than anticipated.

According to the bill, the advisory council should include two administrators of the university, two faculty members, two students representing the student government and two students representing historically underserved students of the

As part of the process, the advisory council would then provide opportunities for members of student government and enrolled students to be part of the deliberation process before submitting a written report to the university’s president.

“Students deserve a voice, and students know what those terms should look like,” said Representative Diego Hernandez (D-Portland), who is the chief sponsor of the legislation. “This bill gives students the ability to access information in a transparent way. Who better to hold our institutions accountable than those most impacted by any tuition changes?”

Oregon House Democrats said in a news release they “are committed to investing in quality public education, including making community colleges and universities more affordable.”

Representative Greg Barreto and Senator Bill Hansell both voted to pass the bill.