Southern Oregon University has proposed a steep increase in tuition in the coming school year, but has paired it with a rebate to help buffer students from the effect.

Southern Oregon University has proposed a steep increase in tuition in the coming school year, but has paired it with a rebate to help buffer students from the effect.

The proposed schedule boosts tuition an average of 7.5 percent for most students. SOU and other universities traditionally have aimed for a 3 to 5 percent annual increase, officials said.

"This is a reaction to the current economic climate," said Mark Bottorff, SOU's director of admissions. "We have to do it now, but we wouldn't anticipate annual increases like this."

He said the school has a fiscal responsibility to bring in more tuition. But officials, who developed the proposal in consultation with students, faculty and staff, also wanted to be sensitive to the economic needs of students and families.

SOU's current tuition schedule — a collection of basic costs and per-credit fees with a plateau so students taking between 13 and 16 credits pay the same amount — doesn't provide a clear answer for the per-credit cost of an education at the school, Bottorff said.

Under the proposal, that answer will be easy — $125 per credit for state residents, he said. Out-of-state students and participants in the Western Undergraduate Exchange will pay higher rates.

However, simply converting to a flat rate would have sent costs soaring for full-time students who had been protected by the tuition plateau. To remedy that, officials have proposed a tuition rebate.

The rebate would return the cost of two credit hours — $250 for resident undergraduates and $375 for students in the Western Undergraduate Exchange program — to students who register for 15 to 20 credits. The rebate would be paid to students during the term.

In announcing the proposed program, officials said they hoped the rebate would encourage students to take additional credits each term.

"We hope that this will help them stay on top of credits and earn a degree in four years," Bottorff said.

Most SOU baccalaureate degrees require 180 credit hours to graduate. For example, students who take 16 credit hours each term for four years will earn 192 credit hours at a tuition cost of $21,000. Students who take 12 credit hours per term need five years to earn 180 credit hours and end up paying $22,500 in tuition.

In addition to savings on tuition, graduating on time cuts students' room-and-board expenses and helps them start their careers sooner, officials noted.