By Max Denning

The Eastern Oregon University Board of Trustees approved a 4.9% increase in tuition at its spring board meeting, which university officials say they hope will not remain a trend with the help from investment by the state Legislature.

The prospect of raising EOU’s tuition was met with trepidation by trustees due to EOU’s emphasis on affordability, but Lara Moore, vice president of finance and administration, said the university remains committed to making EOU accessible for students from all financial situations.

“Any time we increase tuition, there is an impact on students — even when EOU has the lowest tuition in the state,” Moore said. “We have increased our student tuition remissions to help mitigate costs and work with students who are affected by the tuition changes.”

EOU President Tom Insko made headlines in January when he told The Oregonian the governor’s proposed flat-funding of state universities in the base budget could force EOU to raise its tuition by 10-15%.

The Legislature recently passed the student success package for K-12 school funding, but has yet to pass a budget for higher education funding. Moore said currently the Legislature has an additional revenue package that she hopes will pass.

“The Joint Ways & Means Committee chair’s budget currently includes a $40.5 million increase to be shared among all universities, and we are hopeful and continue to hear that there will be an increase in that funding to enable EOU — and all of Oregon’s public universities — to keep tuition levels in check and continue providing critical student services,” she said.

In February, Trustee Richard Chaves told The Observer he was worried about the governor’s budget.

“If that ended up to be the final result, we would have significant reductions,” Chaves said.

Around the state, universities are struggling with keeping tuition increases down. At Portland State University, the Board of Trustees approved an 11.11% tuition increase in May.

The PSU student newspaper, the Vanguard, reported that more than 100 students and faculty crowded the board meeting to protest the tuition increase. The Vanguard also reported even with the tuition increase the university’s budget would be cut by $10 million as well.

While EOU’s tuition increase is substantially lower than other state universities, Moore said she is focused on keeping increases under 5%.

“We are not planning to make this an annual 5% increase, and EOU’s Board of Trustees is very concerned about affordability,” Moore told The Observer. “With a sustainable investment from the state Legislature and ongoing prudent fiscal management at EOU, we would like to keep tuition increases well below 5% and ensure accessibility to the students we serve.”