Signs of trouble; Students protest potential tuition increase

Lane Budget Committee citizen-at-large Chris Matson listens to a budget presentation before the May 14 Board of Education meeting. The college must cut approximately $12.6 million from its budget in the face of a projected 12 percent enrollment drop.Photo: Alex Quadrini


Lane Budget Committee citizen-at-large Chris Matson listens to a budget presentation before the May 14 Board of Education meeting. The college must cut approximately $12.6 million from its budget in the face of a projected 12 percent enrollment drop.
Photo: Alex Quadrini

Students packed a sweltering boardroom to urge the Lane Board of Education to fully consider the ramifications of a tuition increase as the college seeks to balance the budget against a projected $12.6 million shortfall.

The board must adopt a budget by June 30.

The most recent proposal anticipates a $92 million general fund budget funded more by tuition than state money. It is built around an estimated 12 percent enrollment drop and a $3 tuition hike.

When added to the $2 inflationary increase passed earlier this year, the proposed increase would nudge tuition closer to $100 per credit.

The student government has urged the college to cap the proposed tuition increase at $1.88 per credit while the Oregon Student Association has taken a hard-line stance against any tuition increases.

Both groups sent representatives to the board’s May 14 meeting, before which Lane College Services representatives presented their most recent budget proposal and answered board members’ questions.

“Was there a concerted effort (to communicate) with our student community?” board member Matt Keating asked during the meeting.

“At every point in the conversation, students were included,” Vice President of College Services Brian Kelly replied.

Board member Robert Ackerman said he received the documents too late to fully review them before the meeting, and Budget Committee citizen-at-large Chris Matson said that Oregon law requires the college to furnish documents at the committee’s request.

Keating praised College Services’ transparency before board member Tony McCown and Budget Committee citizen-at-large Kevin Cronin began requesting information regarding the budget.

McCown asked the college to prepare a list of the differences between the last proposal and this one, to show the board “how we got from 14 days ago to this budget.”

Afterwards, Cronin asked for the college’s pre-recession numbers from 2007 — regarding the average refund for students who receive financial aid and the ratios of loans to grants and students to staff, among other statistics — because he would “like to be more in touch with what was going on back then.”

That was the last time the college was budgeting during a sound economy, he said.

Cronin also asked to see the vacancy rates and rent schedule for student housing at Titan Court.

At one point, Budget Committee citizen-at-large Jacque Betz sought to reassure the protesters that “decisions that are made at the college are not made in a vacuum.”

The Budget Committee will meet at least once more before the board convenes June 11 to approve a budget.