Bronchos Face Tuition Increase
For the third year in a row, the University of Central Oklahoma has increased tuition rates for the new academic year in response to the ongoing decline in state funding to higher education across Oklahoma.
Both resident and non-resident students will pay 5.5 percent more tuition for the 2018-19 academic year, an increase of $12.90 per credit hour. While tuition has increased at 21 of Oklahoma’s 25 higher education institutions, the 5.5 percent increase represents the highest increase within the Regional University System of Oklahoma.
“We do not take tuition and fee increases lightly,” UCO President Don Betz said. “Be assured, we are actively pursuing every avenue of efficiency in our operations as we prioritize our institutional endeavors and investments.”
Resident students will see the cost for a three credit class increase from $709.95 to $748.80 and a full-time semester of four three credit classes would be an increase from $2,129.85 to $2,246.40 per semester. For non-residents, this increase will be from $6,978.60 to $7,350 for a full-time semester of four three credit classes.
While Fiscal Year 2019 has marked the first time in two years that the university did not receive a reduction in allocated funds, the increases were made to offset a continued decline in enrollment numbers and an increase in mandatory costs.
This increase is projected to bring in a total of $4 million for the university, with the majority being allocated to help offset increased mandatory costs across the university, according to Patti Neuhold, UCO’s vice president for finance.
While there may be no budget reductions, UCO still continues to be the lowest state-funded university, with 21 percent of the institution’s budget being covered by state appropriations. To compensate, the university has been in the process of eliminating vacant employment positions and utilizing one-time fees, according to Neuhold.
“Coupled with our budget reductions and reallocations of $5.9 million, we have created a balanced budget,” Neuhold said
To compensate for the tuition increase, the university has also allocated approximately $1.3 million of the projected $4 million to fund additional tuition waivers and scholarship opportunities.
While this increase will not have an immediate impact, the hope is to increase funding for waivers across all colleges, including additional freshman and returning student scholarships, according to Myron Pope, UCO’s vice president for Student Affairs.
“We have over the last couple of years, because of state budget cuts, not been able to increase the amount of money for tuition waivers,” Pope said. “The increase this year helps us significantly in providing more resources to not only incoming students, but returning students as well.”
Pope said that the long-term plan of the university is to continue to build on this increased investment in tuition waivers and student financial support to offset the increased cost of attendance.
“It’s very much like your household; if you have $10 and the cost of going to buy groceries goes up by 5.5 percent, you need 5.5 percent more money to cover the food that you are going to buy when you go to the grocery store,” Pope said. “That’s essentially what we have tried to consider through the years.”
Yet while tuition may be on the rise throughout Oklahoma, higher education within the state has continued to remain relatively affordable in consideration of other states, according to Angela Caddell, associate vice chancellor for Communications with the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranks Oklahoma’s system of higher education fifth in the nation in affordability, and the National Center for Education Statistics reports that the average student cost at a four-year public university in Oklahoma is fifth-lowest in the nation.
This year also marks the first time in more than five years that the state budget for higher education has not seen a decline. Between 2012 and 2017, Oklahoma state appropriations for higher education had declined by more than 17 percent. This year, higher education saw a 1 percent increase in funding.
“Data clearly show that states with a high percentage of college degree-holders, we have higher per capita incomes and stronger economies,” Caddell said. “We will continue to make the case that there is no better investment to ensure a brighter future for Oklahoma than the investment our policy leaders can make in higher education.”