OHSU Students Win Tuition Fight

OHSU campus by Lynne Terry.jpg

Students at Oregon Health & Science University who’ve been fighting for months against a big tuition increase appear to have largely won their battle. 

OHSU’s provost announced last week in a campus-wide message that the university will not raise tuition between 5% and 7.5% for incoming students as planned but instead will recommend a 2% hike to its board when it meets this Friday. That decision follows a budget deal by lawmakers in August that largely kept OHSU’s state funding intact.

The move also follows rapidly improving revenues at OHSU, following a sharp drop in the spring caused associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Elena Andresen, provost and executive vice president, also said OHSU would not suspend its tuition promise system for students starting this summer. The promise, first enacted in 2009, freezes tuition throughout a student’s normal course of study. The promise is one reason many students choose OHSU over other academic institutions.

Andresen’s message specifically said students due to start the second half of their nursing practitioner program at the end of this month would benefit.

That cohort is small -- only about two dozen students - but they’ve been relentless in fighting to retain the tuition promise which they were told would protect them from tuition spikes when they started the first half of their program over a year ago.

They complained to the administration, met with OHSU President Dr. Danny Jacobs, Andresen and others, talked to The Lund Report and went to board members. 

They were thrilled to get the news.

Though the extra tuition money would not have amounted to much in the university’s overall budget -- tuition only accounts for about 2% of OHSU’s operating revenue -- it’s a big deal for individual students who are racking up debt. Now, they’ll have less of a financial burden when they graduate.

The experience was also educational.

“One of the many things I learned through this process was to never give up,” a student told The Lund Report. “Over the past four months, I can't count how many times OHSU doubled down and told my cohort that nothing could be done, the decision was final, the elimination of the (tuition promise) would not be reversed, and that we'd have to "agree to disagree." We, respectfully, did not accept this. We continued forward and utilized every resource we could think of, and our hard work paid off.”

The process brought the students closer together. But they’ve not been able to celebrate in person. Like other students, much of their studies shifted to online.

This month they’re due to obtain their accelerated bachelor’s degree in nursing then at the end of the month they’ll start a three-year doctorate. When they graduate, they’ll be able to become nurse practitioners, who can diagnose patients, prescribe medication and run their own practices. Nurse practitioners are in demand in Oregon, which has a shortage of primary care providers. They can also specialize. 

The tuition decision will become final once approved by the board.

You can reach Lynne Terry at [email protected] or on Twitter @LynnePDX.

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