Why tuition rose for Oakland’s upperclassmen


Instead of paying the $386.75 per credit hour as they did last year, Oakland University’s resident juniors and seniors are now paying $410.25.

Resident graduate and doctoral tuition has also moved up, going from $617.50 per credit hour to $637.25.

This 6 percent tuition hike happened after the Board of Trustees approved the new budget at its July 1 meeting.

But why, exactly, did it happen?

Let’s break it down.

Taxing the students

“Several years ago, particularly with the economic downturn in the late 2000’s, the state started to see some real decline in revenues,” said Casandra Ulbrich, vice president of the State Board of Education, referring to the migration of Michigan residents.

Due to hits in business and real estate, these residents flocked to other areas of the country, resulting in less contributions to the tax structure and the state’s decision to cut and shift the income tax rate.

“Unfortunately these things have contributed to a scenario that we find ourselves in now where the general fund budget really has taken quite a hit over the last several years,” Ulbrich said.

Out of the five main areas the general fund pays for — local government, public safety, health care, roads and education — Ulbrich said higher education was “on the chopping block” because there’s an alternative to make up revenue.

That alternative? Students.

According to John Beaghan, Oakland’s vice president for Finance and Administration and treasurer to the Board of Trustees, the university gets most of its revenue from tuition. In his general fund budget and tuition rates presentation to the Board he shared the current revenue: 81 percent from tuition, 18 from base state appropriations and 1 from other sources (such as donations). This is nearly a reversal from 1972, when 26 percent of OU’s revenue came from tuition and 71 from appropriations.

“It really has amounted to a tax shift onto primarily young people who want to continue their education,” Ulbrich said.

What you can do about it

Ulbrich said the most important thing students can do to change this is to stay informed and engaged with the state.

“Register to vote, and then vote,” Ulbrich said. “Beyond that, you can always reach out to your state legislator, state senator and state representative and let your opinions be known. They answer to the voters.”

Rochelle Black, vice president of Oakland’s office of government and community relations, said much of the same thing.

“Communicate with elected officials … tell your story. That’s the best thing that you can do,” Black said.

Black said she and her team try to keep Oakland engaged in as many areas as possible, reaching out to officials to represent OU and try to be as influential as possible.

“It can be anything, coffee somewhere, or breakfast or lunch or dinner,” Black said. “You have a conversation about OU and just higher education, you talk about how important higher education is to Michigan’s future, and then you can start delving down into your specific school — then you can sell your story.”

Something her office provides for students is OU Day at the Capitol, an event that provides an opportunity to have conversations with and listen to speakers in Lansing. A day has not been announced for the event, but students should look for it in spring 2015.

“That is one thing we do that is very visible,” Black said. “I would like to do more.”

Your office of Government and Community Relations

– www.oakland.edu/govrel

– 123 Wilson Hall

– Rochelle Black, Vice President; Michelle Lange, State Relations Director; Claudia DiMercurio, Executive Assistant; and Jacqueline Racchi, Executive Secretary

Your Board of Trustees

– www.oakland.edu/bot

– Office is in 203 Wilson Hall, meetings are in Elliott Hall Auditorium

– Fall semester meetings: October 15, 3 p.m. (Audit); October 22, 3:30 p.m.; and December 1, 2 p.m.

Oakland University State Appropriations, 2005 – 2015 (according to Black and Beaghan)

2005: $47,261,300

2006: $51,530,500

2007: $46,613,614

2008: $51,932,900

2009: $52,452,200

2010: $52,220,800

2011: $50,761,000

2012: $43,145,000

2013: $43,145,000

2014: $45,651,600

2015: $48,364,100