Focusing on the Bottom Dollar; A Private Institution’s Philosophy

Focusing on the Bottom Dollar; A Private Institution’s Philosophy

Students walk around campus near Broncho Lake on Aug. 17, 2016. Only a certain amount of money is appointed to be awarded to students in scholarship, which continuously lessens with budget cuts. Photo by Cara Johnson, The Vista.

With scholarships increasing over the last five years, recent state budget cuts have forced the University of Central Oklahoma to make cuts to scholarships and other areas. Most areas received a 20 percent cut this fiscal year, according to university documents.

“This year, just because we had to make some very tough decisions across the board, we did not increase it [scholarships],” said Myron Pope, vice president for Student Affairs at UCO. “What we have tried to do throughout the years is to raise tuition waivers as tuition increases.”

Two areas at the university received increases of 1.09 percent in tuition dollars, including athletics and miscellaneous tuition waivers, due to pre-made agreements between the university and students.

“We had to make cuts in other areas to balance the budget,” Pope said.

The largest cut was to Enrollment Management at $1.2 million dollars this year, received a 20 percent cut.

The university budgeted $9.8 million during the last fiscal year for scholarships and fellowships, though with cuts around $600,000, it has caused the university to look into ways to help students.

Currently, the university gives a 10 percent discount to most students who receive scholarships on average, but Pope said he is planning on an increase.

“We are only at about 10 percent and we need to increase that,” Pope said. “What we have been talking about is how do we get more scholarship dollars to make sure that we are able to give discounts.”

The Strategic Enrollment Management Plan, which is being discussed and reviewed by University of Central Oklahoma President Don Betz’s cabinet, looks into ways for funding scholarships and student success.

“We have been able to do what we have so far, due to this university team, to serve our students and fulfill our mission. That premise and that goal, I must tell you, will be challenged in FY 17, and very likely FY18, as the states investment in higher education continues acclimate,” Betz said at Fall Forum.

At Fall Forum, University of Central Oklahoma Provost John Barthell, said that changes will have to happen with expected cuts this next year.

“We are an institution that really has had to practically reinvent itself as a result of last year’s impact,” Barthell said.

The plan was created before Betz arrived at the university and has not become a priority until now, Pope said, who has spoken with the president about the issue.

“One of our goals is to develop and have an up-to-date plan by the end of this year,” Pope said.

Included in the plan would be ways to enrollment projections, retention of students, academic support, and a new idea of looking into unmet needs of students.

Unmet needs are calculated from a student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and other grants, expected family contribution, and the cost of attendance, which is planned to be compiled by Institutional Research.

Once the university calculates the unmet need, it will then allow the university to determine where best to spend its scholarship dollars, Pope said.

“If we get more scholarship dollars in the future, then we can apply them to the area that needs them,” Pope said. “We have more and more concern about unmet need.”

Filling out FASFA is required at many colleges across the state, though the University of Central Oklahoma does not require students to fill one out, which may soon change, Pope said.

If students fill out a FASFA, it could allow the university to save money when giving out scholarships, Pope said.

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