ASHLAND, Ore. – Southern Oregon University’s student programs are facing budget cuts and some programs could be completely defunded.
“Athletics, in this proposal, got cut by $25,000, The Siskiyou was defunded, the bike exchange program was defunded as was the national student exchange program was defunded,” said Britney Sharp, ASSOU Student Body President.
According to Sharp, SOU has to cut programs by $300,000. In order to decide what stays and what goes, the Student Fee Allocation Committee looked at three key areas.
“The cost benefit, the fundraising, and the community impact,” said Sharp.
Tonight, students had a chance to speak at an appeal meeting. Student journalists with The Siskiyou are there now. In a statement released to NewsWatch 12, they expressed their concern, saying in part, “Having a budget cut that impacts how much content we produce would impact students all over campus.”
“If a lot of this conversation going on right now is proving that impact that The Siskiyou has, I think that’s going to cause a re-evaluation in the committee,” said Sharp.
Erik Palmer, SOU’s communication department chair says the communications program will look into other funding options if the newspaper is defunded.
“As we have students that are interested in doing the work then the communication program at SOU will figure out a way to support them to do student journalism,” said Palmer.
“We still have the Inner Club Counsel (ICC) that funds a lot of our clubs on campus,” said Sharp, “The Siskiyou or some of the other smaller budgets that we completely defunded could go to ICC to ask for funds.”
Once a budget is approved by the committee it will go to the student senate and then to the student body president before going to the Board of Trustee's for final approval. That has to happen by April.
Even though there is a process to handle budget cuts, that doesn’t answer the question of why they are happening in the first place.
According to a state report, “Public defunding of higher education is a national trend that is shifting a majority of the burden of paying for a college education to students and their families. Only 6 states have met pre-recession funding levels for higher education.” Oregon is not one of them.
“Higher education is changing,” said Sharp, “A lot of people are transitioning to online. We have students from Coos Bay and others taking online classes but that doesn’t benefit our programs so we have to adjust to that now.”
Undergraduate in-state tuition at SOU increased by 83% in the last 10 years. Part of the cause for tuition increases is a lack of funding from the state. This year, Oregon public universities requested $120 million from state legislature. They were given $100 million.
“A lot of this is above Southern Oregon’s control and it’s now looking to the state and the HECC to recognize the position we’re in,” said Sharp.
At SOU, program funding is decided on by student government. Since athletics is not covered by tuition, it goes into the program budget and takes a large chunk.
“Athletics is about $1 million, our student fee programs as a whole are about $1 million; so, when we are balancing million-dollar budgets, a $3,000 one isn’t going to make it too well in our process so we’re asking them to go over to ICC,” said Sharp.
If athletics wasn’t a part of program funding, there would be more space for on-campus programs, which brings the issue full circle, back to state funding or the lack thereof and/or tuition increases.
“The funding allocation model from the HACC; we are poorly represented,” said Sharp, “we get the bottom 5% every year.”