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September 25, 2003 :: Rising Costs, Budget Cuts Yielded $37 Million Loss to Higher Ed

Media Contact

Oklahoma House of Representatives members learned today that the higher education system suffered an effective net loss of more than $37 million this year because of increases in mandatory costs and a decrease in state appropriations. This loss came despite increases in tuition.

Oklahoma’s public institutions of higher learning are now funded at the lowest level since 1998. This is despite the fact that enrollment is at an all time high and has increased 9 percent in the last two years.

Chancellor Paul Risser presented information to the House Interim Study on Tuition and expressed concern for the effect of lower state funding and higher tuition on Oklahoma’s students and their families.

“This has real impact on real people,” said Risser, prior to the meeting. “Higher education remains affordable for Oklahomans and we are pleased that our enrollments are so high. But we are determined to work with the legislature and governor to fund our institutions, scholarships and other programs at a level that will make significant tuition increases unnecessary in the future.”

The $37.4 million loss this year impacted higher education in a number of ways. More than 650 faculty and staff positions have been eliminated, and several programs were cut including Summer Academies, Fire Service Training and the Teacher Residency Program.

In many cases, institutions were able to increase financial aid available to students to balance some of the impact of the tuition increases. Oklahoma public institutions are still below the limits set by the legislature and below their peer institutions in other states. Still, the changes in funding levels and tuition mean that students now pay about 33 percent of the cost of their education, compared with 27.5 percent last year.

“Our institutions are doing a terrific job of preserving quality despite the cutbacks,” said Risser. “But we can’t keep this up indefinitely. We must find a way to adequately fund our colleges anduniversities and make certain that our scholarships and other programs are fully funded.”

Download graph - "Enrollment has increased; state appropriations have decreased." (PDF, 73k)
Download graph - "'Gap' created by rising fixed costs and reduced appropriations" (PDF, 70k)