Oakland University students will experience a 4.2% increase in tuition for the 2021-22 school year, although officials said there will be no increases for room and board.

Oakland University students will experience a 4.2% increase in tuition for the 2021-22 school year, although officials said there will be no increases for room and board.

Photo provided by Oakland University

OU approves 4.2% tuition increase for 2021-22 school year

Enrollment declines from the pandemic will impact the university for years to come

By: Mary Beth Almond | Metro | Published July 14, 2021

ROCHESTER — Oakland University students will have to reach deeper into their pockets for a college education next year.

Oakland University recently announced it is raising its tuition by 4.2% starting in the fall of 2021. Last year, the university froze all tuition rates because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s tuition increase was adopted as part of the university’s nearly $287 million general fund budget for the 2021-22 school year.

OU Vice President for Finance and Administration John Beaghan, who also serves as the treasurer to the Board of Trustees, said the need for the increase comes from a combination of factors.

Beaghan said university revenues have been “adversely impacted” by decreases in domestic and international student enrollment, state support and auxiliary activities, adding that enrollment declines experienced during the pandemic will impact the university “for years to come.”

Over the past 25 years, Beaghan said, Oakland University has been “the fastest growing university in the state.” However, over the past 10 years, OU enrollment has been “flat,” decreasing by 0.1%.

Last year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, OU saw a 4% decrease in enrollment for the 2020-21 school year, and officials are anticipating the trend to continue in the years to come.

“Enrollment continues to be a challenge,” Beaghan said. “High school graduates, over the next 10 years, are decreasing, and add the COVID-19 pandemic on top of that. … Students are also deciding whether they are comfortable with online or face-to-face instruction, so they are making decisions later.”

Oakland University is reliant on tuition dollars, Beaghan said, because it receives the lowest state funding per student of the 15 other public universities in the state — at approximately $3,079 per equated student in fiscal year 2021. The average state funding per student at the public university level is $5,640 per student.

Oakland University needs additional resources this year to replenish the nearly $7 million the university took from its reserves last year to help balance the budget amid COVID-19.

The increase in tuition — which is the university’s primary source of general fund revenue, accounting for over 80% of the budget — is expected to raise an additional $12.9 million in revenue.

OU announced it is not raising costs for room and board for the 2021-22 school year, which officials said will include a variety of in-person, hybrid and online courses, along with “an active, full-service” residential campus.

Oakland University President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz said the university is “extremely sensitive” to the financial circumstances of its students and families.  

“Our timely responsiveness can be measured in the amount of financial aid, scholarships and other student-support we provide, along with the strategic use of federal relief funding, to help offset our students’ educational costs related to the pandemic,” Pescovitz said in a statement.

Last year, the university distributed $13.9 million in emergency grant funding it received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act to eligible students to help ease financial strains caused by the pandemic. Students not eligible for CARES Act funding were encouraged to apply for assistance from other institutional emergency funds, such as the OU COVID-19 Special Relief Fund.  

Although occupancy for students living on campus was down this past year — about 52% of capacity due to COVID-19 — Beaghan said housing contracts are trending up for this fall.

Beaghan noted that the university also has a no-fee policy and devotes substantial resources to financial aid. For fiscal year 2020, he said, the average aid for a full-time resident undergraduate student was $4,421, reducing the net average cost to attend Oakland by nearly one-third.

“We believe we are the only public university in the country that is fee-less,” he said.