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Legislation creates committee made of students, educators at state universities.

COURTESY PHOTO - Rep. Diego HernandezA Democratic legislator in far East Portland wants public universities considering a tuition hike to pay more attention to the thoughts of minority students, faculty and the elected class leadership.

Oregon House Bill 4141 requires public centers of higher learning to create a new committee, which would issue written reports to administrators seeking to increase tuition or fees.

"Students deserve a voice, and students know what those terms should look like," said Rep. Diego Hernandez, D-Portland, the legislation's chief sponsor, who represents parts of the Glenfair, Wilkes and Centennial neighborhoods.

The Tuition Advisory Council would have no power to reject or accept tuition growth, though increases at public universities of more than 5 percent must be approved by the state's Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

But the proposed committee would study the impact of fee hikes on historically underserved minority students and whether smaller fee hikes might better serve the student body.

"This bill gives students the ability to access information in a transparent way," Hernandez said in a news release. "Who better to hold our institutions accountable than those most impacted by any tuition changes?"

The bill, which the House of Representatives in Salem passed 57-2 on Tuesday, Feb. 20, is assumed to have minimal costs and generate no revenue. Reps. Bill Post, R-Keizer, and Mike Nearman, R-Independence, voted no.

The advisory council will have seats for at least two administrators, two students from historically underrepresented groups, two student government officers and two faculty members.

If signed into the law, the councils would convene starting in the 2019-20 academic year.

"Tuition is a lifelong investment, and that is why it is important for student voices to be heard," said Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Happy Valley, another sponsor of the bill. "This legislation ensures that students will have a meaningful say in how tuition is set."

Rep. Hernandez made headlines in 2017 for shepherding into law a bill that charges a different committee to create ethnic study curriculum standards for all K-12 public school students.

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