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December 5, 2006 :: College Tuition in State Still Lower Than National Peers, Study Shows

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Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities are keeping tuition and mandatory fees below posted peer limits as specified by state law, according to a higher education report released today.

Information contained in the “2006-07 Tuition Impact Analysis Report,” a detailed report compiled by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, shows that Oklahoma residents pay an average of nearly $750 less in tuition and mandatory fees for an undergraduate education than their peers in other states.

“We are pleased that a college education in Oklahoma is still one of the most affordable in the nation,” Interim Chancellor Phil Moss said. “It’s extremely important that all students have an opportunity for a college education and that we help them discover all sources of available financial aid, as well as keep our costs as low as possible.”

The tuition impact report reveals that students who enrolled in 30 credit hours at the state’s research institutions – Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma – pay an average of $5,053 in tuition and mandatory fees, compared to $5,707 at peer institutions. OU and OSU continue to be ranked at the bottom of the Big 12 for undergraduate resident tuition and mandatory fees.

Students enrolled at the state’s regional universities pay an average of $3,457 for resident undergraduate tuition and mandatory fees compared to $4,128 in other states. The widest gap is in the community college tier where Oklahoma students pay an average of $2,249 for 30 credit hours compared to $3,168 at peer institutions.

Tuition and mandatory fee increases for the 2006-07 year, which amount to about $12 a month for a full-time resident student, have had a minimal impact on students’ ability to pay for college, according to the report. Higher education officials believe a major reason for the low impact was higher education’s record $1.019 billion appropriation for FY2007. The record amount allowed institutions to keep tuition increases at a minimum, averaging only 5.2 percent.

Institutions have increased the amount of financial aid available to students to help offset the 5.2 percent tuition and mandatory fee increase. Resident tuition waivers increased this year throughout the state system by $4.4 million, or 12.3 percent. Institutions have also implemented other strategies to help students and their families, including creating or expanding tuition scholarship programs for low- to middle-income students, providing additional funds for on-campus jobs and providing alternative payment options throughout the year.

The State Regents have increased funding to the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG) program to help cover increased college costs and have allocated $2.5 million in funding this year for concurrent enrollment waivers to encourage high school seniors to attend college. And as long as funding is available for the Oklahoma’s Promise-OHLAP scholarship program, eligible students in the program will have the tuition portion of any increase covered.

This year’s tuition and mandatory fee increases have also had little impact on enrollment, the report states. Enrollments have increased significantly during the past few years, despite tuition increases during the same time frame. This fall’s preliminary enrollment figures are relatively flat, however, and should remain so for the near future. Officials cite an improved state economy and smaller high school classes rather than recent tuition increases as possible reasons for the flat enrollment numbers.

The report also revealed that institutions communicated potential tuition and mandatory fee increases to the students in a variety of ways. Most of the students understood the reasons for the increases and accepted them as necessary to ensure the quality of instruction. In addition, institutions continued their commitment to provide cost-effective and cost-efficient operations.

“The State Regents and our state system institutions are committed to engaging in efforts that address accessibility, affordability and accountability so that our students will be prepared for the global marketplace,” State Regents’ Chairman John Massey said. “In addition, we look forward to future dialogues with legislative leaders and the governor’s office to ensure Oklahoma’s higher education options remain some of the most competitive in the nation.”

In 2003, legislators granted colleges and universities tuition- and fee-setting authority within prescribed limits, requiring the State Regents to annually provide them with a detailed report on how the state system is complying with certain provisions set forth in the law.

The State Regents will present this year’s findings to Gov. Brad Henry and state lawmakers in early 2007.