UCO Waits for Their Fate
(Ryan Naeve/The Vista)
Without a clear vision as to how much is going to be cut from higher education, University of Central Oklahoma school officials, students, faculty and staff anxiously wait for the news of a second special session at the Oklahoma Capitol.
UCO Vice President of Finance, Patti Neuhold said the finance team is still waiting to hear what the cut will be for next school year after Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed most of the budget bill, House Bill 1019X, which included a cut to higher education of about $17 million.
“UCO’s share of that amount [$17 million] would have been more than $910,000,” Neuhold told The Vista.
Gov. Fallin said she vetoed most of the budget bill because it did not provide long-term solutions to the reoccurring budget deficits, and that within a three-month span the budget gap could reach about $600 million. Gov. Fallin did keep portions of the bill that provided funding for health and human services programs.
The last time the school saw a flat allocation of state funds was during fiscal year 2015. Since then, UCO has seen a cut of 25.52 percent, which equals about $13.62 million, Neuhold said.
In the meantime, the uncertainty has some teachers and students concerned. One UCO employee, who hasn’t received a raise in over 12 years, said he is worried about what possible cuts will mean to his family, since two of his children are in college.
Oklahoma Rep. Cyndi Munson (D) has worked at the state legislature to explain that schools like UCO require state money, since the school doesn’t rely heavily on private donations. She said during the first special session, which began on Sept. 25 and ended on Nov. 17, there was not a clear plan as to what was to be worked on.
“UCO is one of the universities that cannot afford any more cuts,” Munson said. “It is really scary when you think about these cuts to higher ed, because the rhetoric is that colleges and universities are fat, as in they have tons of money and are able to build all these new buildings and able to get professors,” Munson said. “It’s just rhetoric, it is not actual fact.”
Munson said Vice President for Public Affairs, Mark Kinders, provided data to her that showed about 1,500 students left UCO because they couldn’t afford it anymore, something that is usually appealing about transferring to UCO. She said she is seeing several universities that were once public developing into privatized institutions.
Munson said the conversational climate about cutting from higher education at the state level is concerning to her, as a graduate from UCO. She said she is worried that another big cut will not only raise tuition, but UCO might have to shut down some programs, such as extensive degree programs in science, technology, engineering and math fields.
Munson said she hopes the governor is working to encourage a compromise between lawmakers.
“My hope is that she is taking time to meet with Republican leaders who don’t want to raise taxes,” Munson said. “People think it is all Republicans and Democrats who can’t get along and can’t negotiate, but it is really the Republican leadership and the governor.”
The second special session that Gov. Fallin promised will begin on Dec. 18. Until it is known whether or not lawmakers will decide to cut from higher education, school officials will have to wait to be able to project what another possible cut would do to the UCO community. However, Neuhold said whatever the amount comes out to be, every effort will be made to reduce the impact on students.
“Until we know the amount, we won’t know the impact,” Neuhold said.