Boren focuses the "State of the University" discussion on higher education funding
OU President David Boren urged Oklahoma citizens to be concerned about continuing to shrink state appropriations to higher education during an hour-long discussion on Wednesday.
“It’s what is critical for the future of our state that we need to wake up the public,” Boren said.
“We need a Paul Revere’s ride around the state of Oklahoma to wake up the people to what is going on.”
In a chart provided by the university, for the fiscal year 2013 budget OU receives 17.5 percent of its funding through state appropriations, 29 percent in tuitions and fees, 16.9 percent in grants and contracts, 27.5 percent in auxiliary funds, 8.7 percent in other Educational & General budget, 0.5 percent in one-time funding and “the rest of the costs are passed on to students and parents.”
The discussion, which took place in Oklahoma Memorial Union’s Beaird Lounge, was Boren’s annual “State of the University” address to the Staff Senate.
“At what point do we really still think we have a public university, and at what point, with regards to funding, does it become a private university supported by tuition fees and gifts?” Boren asked.
Boren praised faculty and staff for “doing more with less” in the midst of the current economic crisis.
“We have been challenged more in terms of our financial support than ever before,” he said.
Boren said during the last year, the university has had to absorb $100 million in cuts or uncompensated cost increases. This includes $20 million in uncompensated health insurance costs and rising utility costs over which Boren said the university had no control.
This is because the Oklahoma legislature cut higher education funding by 20 percent over the last three years. In a chart provided by the university, OU in 1985 received 38.6 percent of its funding through state appropriation, he said. In 2012, OU received 11.3 percent of its funding through state appropriations.
Boren said citizens have to think about the future of Oklahoma and opportunities for young people.
“Teachers are being laid off. Courses aren’t being offered,” Boren said. “And here we have been weathering through this, but you know we can’t keep weathering through this with very modest changes to tuitions and fees compared to $100 million in cuts.”
This year the university has recouped 10 million of that through tuition and fees increases, he said.
Boren said the university has thought of multiple ways to cut its budget including removing office telephones as an example as a way to save money.
“We can’t cut more without cutting into the muscle and bone,” Boren said. “We’ve cut the fat.”
State funding to OU is still $90 million a year below what the university received four years ago, he said. If university funding were to return to the level it was four years ago, Boren said OU would see an added appropriation of $13 million.
Boren said he sees it as a reasonable request that state leaders return funding to where it was four years ago.
"We could do some things we’d like to do with modest enhancement of compensation,” he said. “Keeping tuition and fees low and showing the kind of appreciation that this staff deserves, our faculty deserves and everyone associated with the university deserves.”
Boren said he believes increasing state appropriations is a worthy cause because it is an investment for the state.
“It’s not a selfish cause,” Boren said. “It’s a cause for what’s right in our state and it’s a cause for investing in our future.”