No one wants to see Southern Oregon University tuition rise 12 percent next year — least of all Linda Schott, SOU's new president — but at least some increase is unavoidable.
It's far too early to predict what the final budget numbers will be. The 2017 Legislature just got underway last month, and the heavy lifting will come later.
SOU's board of trustees will consider the tuition increase in April. The state Higher Education Coordinating Commission, which must approve any increase greater than 5 percent, meets in May, but a final budget decision from the Legislature isn't expected until summer.
If that seems backward, it is — but public schools and other state-funded services face the same dilemma every two years, essentially budgeting in the dark.
Gov. Kate Brown's proposed budget — only a starting point — calls for $667 million for the state's seven universities. The universities are asking for $100 million more than that to avoid steep tuition hikes and budget cuts. At SOU, there is little left to trim after four years of "retrenchment" carved $14 million from the operating budget.
The state faces a $1.7 billion budget shortfall, and there won't be enough to go around without tax increases, which aren't likely. Relative to the general fund, $100 million isn't a lot — but it would have to come from other state programs, every one of which can make a strong case for more funding.
Tuition will rise. The question is how much.