ENERGY COSTS

October 03, 2001 11:00 pm
SHARING IDEAS: Eastern Oregon University President Phil Creighton, right, talks with Sean Phillips and Charisse Palmer Wednesday after a fireside chat with students. Phillips and Palmer are both EOU students. Phillips is EOUs student body president. (The Observer/DICK MASON).
SHARING IDEAS: Eastern Oregon University President Phil Creighton, right, talks with Sean Phillips and Charisse Palmer Wednesday after a fireside chat with students. Phillips and Palmer are both EOU students. Phillips is EOUs student body president. (The Observer/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Rising energy costs are hitting the pocketbooks of Eastern Oregon University students.

Students who attend classes on campus are being charged an energy fee of up to $30 a term to help the university cover rising gas and electricity costs.

Some students are unhappy with the fee. They shared their feelings in a flyer recently distributed on campus.

Students are upset and I dont blame them, EOU President Phil Creighton said. But the energy fee is unavoidable, Creighton said Wednesday during the first of a series of fireside chats he is holding with students.

My options (for addressing rising energy costs) are limited, he said.

Energy costs have skyrocketed to the point that Eastern would be forced to cut programs and staff to cover the increased expense without the energy fee, Creighton said.

EOUs energy costs jumped from $665,000 in 1999-2000 to $815,000 in 2000-01. In 2001-02, energy costs are expected to rise to $1.18 million.

The president said the projected increase means that Eastern is facing a $200,000 expense it did not anticipate when tuition and fees were set earlier this year. An energy fee was needed.

The increases in gas and electricity bills are particularly striking considering that Eastern has taken stringent energy conservation measures. The steps have reduced Easterns energy consumption over the past year by 35 percent.

EOU officials are also trying to reduce energy costs by entering into long-term contracts with Avista Utilities and Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative. These agreements would put Eastern in a less vulnerable situation if there are sudden surges in power rates in the future.

We would be free from market fluctuations, Creighton said.

He said that if these long-term contracts are agreed upon, EOU will get a better handle on its energy costs and might eventually be able to reduce or eliminate the energy fee.

If we get these contracts in place, I promise Ill pass the savings back to you, Creighton told the students.

Students taking classes on campus are paying an energy fee of $3 per credit hour and a maximum of $30 per term. Students taking classes via the distance education program are charged $1.50 per credit hour and a maximum of $15 a term.

Future of Hoke

Creighton also fielded questions Wednesday about the future of Hoke Center. He noted that EOU probably will build two or three new dormitories over the next four years. Creighton wants to eventually move things such as the residence hall food service program out of Hoke and into the new dormitories.

Steps like this would allow Hoke to become a true student union which would be the focal point of their activities.

Students also asked Creighton about enrollment. He said that final enrollment figures are not in but he expects full-time student enrollment on campus to be up between 6.8 and 7.2 percent.

Easterns enrollment increase would be even higher had it not been for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Creighton said that about 50 international students who had planned to attend EOU this fall have decided not to enroll. Some of them might attend later.

Creighton said that many are not coming because of concerns their parents have expressed.

Between 15 and 20 students attended Wednesdays meeting with Creighton in Hoke Centers main lounge. The president said he is looking forward to future gatherings with students.

Creighton continued meeting with students long after their questions had been answered.

You may not realize this, he said, but talking with you adds energy and meaning to my life.