U of O: Turning its back on Oregon?

Higher-paying non-Oregonians help foot the bill

Special report: UO turns to out-of-state students

BEND, Ore. - Bend high senior Melissa Hubler is on her way to being a Duck

"I love the culture of Eugene," said Hubler.

It's a culture that's changing.  Last fall was the first time Oregonians were in the minority in the freshman class at the University of Oregon.

"Most of our budget to run the University of Oregon comes from tuition, comes from students," said Dr. Roger Thompson, vice president of enrollment at the U of O.

Out-of-state students pay about $27,000 a year in tuition. Oregonians like Melissa pay around $9,000.  

In the 2004-2005 school year, U of O brought in $68 million in tuition from out-of-state students, $69 million from Oregonians -- about a 50-50 split.

Last year, U of O collected $221 million from out-of-state students --  nearly double the amount from in-staters.

"One of the common myths I run into is that somehow a student from Bakersfield, California is displacing a student from Bend, Oregon," said Thompson.

But the numbers seem to show otherwise. In-state enrollment has dropped by just over 500 students over the last decade.  At the same time, out-of-state student numbers have jumped by almost 4,700, or 164 percent.

"If you look at the cost basis our resident students pay, it doesn't cover the cost of their education," said Thompson.

Even with $90 million from the state last year, it's still not enough to cover the cost of educating a student from Oregon. That may be contributing to a drop in the number of Oregonians actually getting in to U of O.

State funding for public universities has been dropping for the past six years.  That puts universities in a tough spot to balance their own budgets, with few options:  Raise tuition, cut programs -- or admit more high-paying out-of-state students.

About 43 miles north of Eugene, in Corvallis, Oregon State University is tackling the same budget challenges in a different way.

"You know, I wish the state could do more on a per-capita basis to support in-state students, but we're sorting fighting against the tide.  We're doing everything we can to keep those numbers up," said OSU President Dr. Ed Ray.

OSU's in-state numbers have grown by about 3,000 students over the last decade.  It comes at a cost.

"We've actually eliminated 26 low-enrollment majors," said Ray.

OSU has also consolidated 63 colleges, schools and programs down to 42.

"We've thought long and hard about this stuff and what we're doing, and what our values are and why we're doing it.  And I don't care what anyone else does -- that's their business," Ray said when asked about his philosophy, vs. the changes at University of Oregon.

U of O does recruit heavily within Oregon, sending promotional materials to graduating seniors like Melissa Hubler.  Those materials are also sent to students out of state.

"We are a very popular school out of state at the moment.  We are a hot school," said Thompson.

Citing national exposure on the football field, more than 19,000 out-of-state students applied to U of O last fall, and only about 2,500 got in.

Oregonians fared better. Including community college transfer students, around 6,100 applied, and 2,900 were accepted.

Still, the overall enrollment picture has changed dramatically. Oregonians used to make up 70 percent of the student body; last year, it was just 58 percent.

"That 56 to 60 percent, that's the percent of undergraduates on our campus that we wish to be Oregon residents," said Thompson.

Hubler will be part of that category next year, and she is going on scholarship.

"We give more scholarship dollars to resident students than non-residents," said Thompson.

"I got the Solari Scholarship and the Summit Scholarship," Hubler said, "and you're automatically considered for those when you apply -- and it's $10,000 a year."

Getting into U of O is a great opportunity for Hubler.  But as the only public university with dropping numbers of in-state students, it's an opportunity that is available to fewer and fewer Oregonians.

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