Chemeketa Community College graduates wave to audience members as the 2019 ceremony begins (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)
Funding for Oregon’s colleges and universities has recovered from cuts during the Great Recession, but students are paying far more in tuition than they were a decade ago.
On average, a full-time Oregon student spends about $9,200 a year on tuition, according to a report from The Pew Charitable Trusts, an independent non-profit organization that researches public policy issues.
That’s up from $6,000 a decade ago, a 52% increase, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.
The Pew report, released last week, shows how higher education funding has changed over the past 20 years across the U.S.
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Historically, states have provided the bulk of college and university funding, while federal money - usually in the form of grants to lower-income students and research funds - has been a smaller share. But as states drastically cut spending during the Great Recession, that trend began to flip as more students qualified for federal grants.
“We’ve really seen this shift in higher education funding. Some of it has been driven by the recession, but what’s really interesting is that that has persisted,” said Rebecca Thiess, associate manager at The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Oregon is now spending about the same amount, adjusted for inflation, per college or university student as a decade ago. It’s one of just nine states that’s recovered to pre-recession funding levels, data shows.
But as higher education costs have grown faster than inflation, that still means students are footing more of the bill.
Ben Cannon, executive director of Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission, said Oregon falls behind many other states.
“Oregon was not a leading state before the recession in terms of public funding or affordability,” he said. “We are a state with well below average levels of public investment and well above average tuition levels.”
Oregon’s current tuition costs make it the 18th most expensive state for students. The average Oregon student pays far less than in Vermont, the most expensive state, where average tuition and fees are about $20,000 per year.
In neighboring Washington, college tuition runs about $7,800 per year. In California, it’s about $5,000.
Ten years ago, Oregon’s tuition put the state closer to the middle of the pack.
“We’re falling behind” on college affordability, Cannon said.
Reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.