We are Eating our Seed Corn, UCO Tuition Increases

We are Eating our Seed Corn, UCO Tuition Increases

Betz and administration have announced a tuition increase due to the budget crisis across Oklahoma. UCO is looking at a 9.9 percent hike in mandatory fees for students. Photo by Ryan Naeve, The Vista.

Students at the University of Central Oklahoma will soon be faced with a 9.9 percent increase in mandatory tuition and fees from an $8.4 million shortfall to the university, causing university-wide cutbacks to be considered.

“Over these last several years, we have witnessed an eroding public investment in higher education,” UCO President Don Betz said. “UCO’s proposed tuition/fees will cover about two-thirds of the FY 17 financial challenge we face.”

Cuts were announced at a Regional University System of Oklahoma meeting on Thursday. Unfortunately, the increase in tuition still will not cover all of the cuts facing the university, only covering $6.7 million, with the rest requiring cuts across the campus.

“The budget cuts have forced all of higher education to make hard decisions about costs and increased tuition,”  Jeff Dunn said, Regional University Systems of Oklahoma Regent. “The worst outcome is that some students may be forced to postpone their education because they can’t afford to invest in a college degree.”

Betz said that cutting faculty would be counterproductive, though addressed that the university is examining all positions and replacement hires. UCO is currently 70 to 110 additional full-time faculty positions behind other pier institutes.

“To address the shortfalls, we have substantively reduced operational budgets, drawn down on reserves, examined all positions and reviewing all replacement hires. We have curbed involvement in a number of discretionary programs,” Betz said.

The university is looking into cutting travel, reducing funds given to select education and general organizations on campus, and dipping into reserves, covering the $1.7 million which was not covered by the tuition increase.

“For years, the state has been transferring responsibility for funding public higher education to Oklahoma’s students and families,” Betz said. “Oklahoma higher education has moved from state supported to, at best, state assisted or state located.”

The university has also experienced a $1.3 million credit hour production shortfall, which caused the shortfall to increase; however, Betz and others are hoping that the cuts will not interfere with the future of education.

“We need a long-term vision for our state and its citizens to create and sustain our society.  This is our responsibility to the generations that will follow us,” Betz said. “As one well-known Oklahoman recently commented to me, “We are eating our seed corn.”

The university will now receive $43.8 million in state appropriated funds, down from $51.4 million at the beginning of the FY 15; and at an April forum, Betz said that more cuts could continue next year.

“We educate more with less,” Betz said. “At UCO, students provide more institutional support than does the state.”

The RUSO meeting also came with the announcement of increased tuition to all six-member universities, with Northeastern State University experiencing the highest hike at 11.9 percent.

“The best way to achieve long-term economic goals in our state is to invest in education,” Dunn said in a statement.

Students at Southwestern Oklahoma State received a 9.8 percent increase, Southeastern Oklahoma State 8 percent increase, East Central 9.9 percent increase and Northwestern Oklahoma State 9.8 percent increase, coming in tuition and mandatory fees.

“We are frustrated and astounded that the regional universities are faced with this economic dilemma,” Dunn said. “The universities will continue to look for ways to operate on an extremely lean budget to prevent further increases for students.”

Tuition increases must be passed by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education at their June 29 meeting.

Next year’s budget will officially be released July 1.

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