State budget cuts being made by the Oregon Legislature mean Southern Oregon University students will see tuition increases of 7 to 8 percent, SOU officials said Thursday.

By John Darling

For the Tidings

State budget cuts being made by the Oregon Legislature mean Southern Oregon University students will see tuition increases of 7 to 8 percent, SOU officials said Thursday.

The recession-hammered state budget will not be finalized until the end of June, but it appears the budget before the Joint Ways and Means Committee would result in tuition hikes ranging from 3.5 percent to 13 percent in state universities, according to The Associated Press.

"The budget still has a lot of moving parts and they're still carving up the pie in Salem, but based on the co-chairmen's budget and the state economic forecast, SOU is looking at a 7 to 8 percent increase in tuition in September," said SOU spokesman Jim Beaver.

The state is facing a $3.8 billion gap between expected revenue over the next two years and the cost of continuing existing services.

Of the state's seven public universities, Eastern Oregon, expects the smallest tuition increase, from 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent, while Portland State may have the largest, from 10 percent to 13 percent.

Oregon State's tuition was expected to rise from 9.5 to 10 percent; University of Oregon, 7 percent and Western Oregon, 9 percent. The projected increase at the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls is 7 to 9 percent.

While applications are up, it is not clear yet how tuition increases will affect enrollment.

Officials estimate the 86,500-student system could lose up to 10,000 students if the state cuts the system's budget by 30 percent and tuition goes up 12 percent for the next two years.

Beaver said that colleges often see enrollment increases during an economic downturn, as students sharpen their skills in preparation for better times. Because of that, he said, SOU "hopes the tuition increase won't have much effect."

"We're seeing a lot of interest and our enrollment numbers have been up every quarter of this school year," said Beaver.

SOU is hoping to ease the tuition burden for in-state students if the Legislature funds the Oregon Opportunity Grant for the school year starting in September, said Beaver. That fund ran out of money three-fourths of the way through the present school year, a gap that was bridged by SOU, said Beaver.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this story.