EDITORIAL: Lawmakers need to prioritize higher education
Our View: The legislature needs to prioritize higher education when creating a fiscal budget.
AT A GLANCE
Officials' contact information
Glen D. Johnson, state chancellor of education
Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education
Hollye Hunt, associate vice chancellor for government relations
Tuition and fees have risen steadily at OU since the 1970s, and though most people don’t expect college and the associated expenses to get any cheaper, it is imperative that lawmakers prioritize a budget for higher education.
Thursday, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved a tuition and mandatory fee increase for Oklahoma public colleges and universities. Tuition and mandatory fees increase 3 percent for residents and 5 percent for non-resident students. These increases make the average undergraduate tuition $131.90 per credit hour and the average nonresident tuition $387.90 per credit hour. Additionally, residence hall room and board will increase by 4 percent with the standard meal plan.
The budget bill allocates $955.26 million for higher education. This is not only the same amount higher education received during the current fiscal year, but it is $34.7 million less than State Chancellor Glen Johnson requested.
The higher education saw the biggest cut in years at 5.8 percent. like the Department of Human Services and the Corrections Department, received modest cuts of only 1.1 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively.
With tuition rising, why is funding not rising appropriately? From the 2007-08 school year to the 2011-12 school year, the cost of mandatory fees alone has gone up more than $600.
What’s more, Gov. Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher education adopted a higher education initiative called “Complete College America” in October 2011. The goal is to increase degrees earned annually in Oklahoma from 30,500 in 2011 to 50,900 by 2023.
How does the state increase the number of degrees awarded by 67 percent without also raising the funding to higher education? These are big plans that call for a big budget.
Students cannot assume such economic burdens at the rate we are heading. If tuition increased by 3 percent each year, OU’s cost of attendence would be nearly $4,000 more in tuition and fees by 2023. This expense, of course, doesn’t include housing and transportation costs that students undoubtedly incur.
It is imperative for Oklahoma to invest in its future through education. Though Fallin says the 2012 legislative session was “marked by a flurry of successes that will deliver ... an environment more conducive to job creation,” economic prosperity and the future job market lie within future college graduates.
If the legislature continues to disregard the chancellor, administration and students, there will be a decrease, not increase, in degrees earned because parents and students will not be able to afford higher education.
Contact Johnson to let him know you support an increase in higher education funding and contact your representatives to let them know you feel students should be priority during the next legislative session to become involved in the future as we enter the next fiscal year.