How I learned to stop worrying and love tuition increases. (Not really.)

7 thoughts on “How I learned to stop worrying and love tuition increases. (Not really.)”

  1. Great question. I don’t know the answer either, so instead I’ll toss out a couple other possible possible reasons:

    * No obvious villain. Some students might blame the university, some might blame the state government, so blame (and therefore protest energies) could be divided. And in both cases, we are talking about a big diffuse institution, not a single identifiable individual that is easy to ascribe agency (villainy?) to.

    * Politics. Students, especially with a more economic-libertarian political bent, might not agree with subsidizing in-state students’ tuition (and in-state tuition is where the biggest percentage increases are, at least in the present round of hikes at UO).

    * Pluralistic ignorance about who is harmed. Sort of an offshoot of your #1. Well-off politically liberal students who might normally be inclined to protest on behalf of disadvantaged groups might assume that most everybody else at UO is like them (i.e., well off too), and therefore not see a tuition protest as needed.

    That’s what popped into my head, I have no idea if any of these are right. Overall though I agree with your larger point, the lack of large-scale protest is noteworthy and not obvious.

  2. I know that at Oakland University, a few decades ago we obtained most of our funding from the state, with tuition representing a minor contribution. Now, we are 80% tuition funded, with only 20% from the state. Thus, raising tuition has become our only way to keep up with increasing costs. So, one could say such tuition increases reflect the privatization of public schools.

    1. This is true at UO also, though even more severely. Depending on how it’s counted, between 5 and 12 % of our funds come from the state. (The state’s funding amounts to 5% of our total operating costs, but I think it’s 12% or so if one considers only non-research costs.) This is amazing, but it’s not new; costs are rising by more than can be accounted for by the drop in state support. (Similarly, tuition costs at private universities have also been soaring.)

  3. Interestingly, OSU students protested the board of trustees vote on a 4% in-state/ 2% out-of-state tuition increase to the point where they had to postpone the vote to a later date ( This seems to support your first argument that median family income has a big say in student resistance to tuition hikes, as the OSU family median income is ~$21,000 less than UO (same link as above).

    1. I saw that in yesterdays’s paper — interesting! The article didn’t say how many students protested, unfortunately, but it’s worth noting that the amount of their tuition hike is less than UO’s. Perhaps it will inspire students here?!

  4. There is actually a simple answer: Complaining ineffectively -knowing something is wrong and saying so to whoever will listen (good luck with that)- is easy but gets no results. Complaining effectively -locating the person/people who can do something and then crafting an argument or organizing a movement that will cause them to act- is time consuming and hard work. Most students have plenty of other, more quickly rewarding, challenges demanding their attention.

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