Four of Oregon’s public universities will defend substantial tuition increases Thursday in front of the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

State universities can raise tuition on their own if it’s less than a 5% increase. If the increase is more than that, they need the HECC’s permission.

The Portland State University Board of Trustees voted for an 11% tuition hike at a meeting last month. After the vote, students pledged to challenge the increase. 

“On Thursday, June 13 in Salem, come tell HECC we can’t afford PSU’s hike,” yelled the students.

University of Oregon is proposing up to a 9.7% increase. The potential increase for Oregon Institute of Technology students is similar: 9%. 

But Southern Oregon University has the steepest hike: up to 13.5%.

The HECC recently approved criteria to decide whether a university tuition increase is “appropriate.” In reviewing tuition increases, the commission will determine whether students were included in the tuition-setting process, the impact of a tuition hike on underrepresented students and whether financial stability is dependent on a tuition hike.

Oregon State, as well as Eastern and Western Oregon universities, approved increases that are less than 5%. Western Oregon University’s increase is the smallest: a 2.33% bump. 

University administrators say if state lawmakers dedicate more money to universities, tuition hikes would be smaller.

At the Portland State Board of Trustees meeting in May, Vice President of Government Relations Kevin Neely mentioned a potential tour of Oregon’s public universities for legislators, similar to a tour of K-12 schools that led to a greater focus on funding and improvements for students.

“We know that we are systemically underfunded in the same way K-12 is,” said Neely.