The OU Student Government Association and Division of Student Affairs presented a fees simplification process and strategic plan investments, including a tentative three percent tuition rate increase, during a webinar Monday evening.
The webinar was presented by Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students David Surratt, Associate Vice President of Budget and Finance Stewart Berkinshaw and Senior Vice President and Provost André-Denis Wright, with SGA President Zack Lissau acting as moderator.
Lissau said the webinar would be made available on the OU SGA website for any and all to view in the interest of transparency.
“(Tonight is) about a discussion and … to talk about ways in which the university is looking to further look at resources and invest in the university’s future, especially as it relates to our strategic plan ‘Lead On,’” Surratt said.
Berkinshaw said planned investments for the 2023 fiscal year approximate to over $33 million, with the largest portions of money being allocated to a faculty and staff raise program, faculty hiring and maintenance. To pay for these investments, he said the OU Administration and Finance would be amounting approximately $36 million from various places.
The $36 million will be allocated through, but are not limited to, internal budget reductions and reallocations, rate increases, fundraising and consolidating back office operations. One of these increases is a proposed tuition rate increase, tentatively put at three percent, pending what state appropriations will be for the 2023 fiscal year.
“We do have a placeholder right now for a tuition rate increase,” Berkinshaw said. “That’s always been part of our budget. Nothing’s been finalized for that. I just do have a placeholder there just to be transparent about what we're thinking.”
The estimated financial impact for students, Berkinshaw said, is an average of $670 next year in the impacted areas, which include the Colleges of Engineering, Earth and Energy, Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences and Architecture, and the Dodge Family College of Arts and Sciences chemistry, biology, microbiology and plant biology, health and exercise science and physics/astronomy departments.
Wright said these increased costs will allow the university to support students who currently do not have access to opportunities that could further their education, such as research or study abroad, due to financial costs.
“So, although (the budget plan) looks like it may prohibit students from taking those programs,” Wright said, “It would actually look at improving their experiential learning and give them more experiences.”
Berkinshaw said the new proposed academic service fees structure — which was streamlined and simplified by cutting course-specific fees and combining college program and technology fees — was made to be more understandable for students.
“Right now, we’re … getting feedback from faculty, students and staff and making a final proposal to our regents for approval in our March meeting,” Berkinshaw said.
He said the deans he has spoken to are fully on board with the cutting of fees and are concerned the budget structure could become more “credit hour driven.” The shift to credit hours driving the budget, Berkinshaw said, will be surprising but ultimately “for the good of the colleges.”
“(For example,) the College of Fine Arts (is) not expecting to grow significantly in enrollment but, if they can maintain their enrollments, there are no changes in their budget, (and) they’ll continue to get what they always receive,” Berkinshaw said. “For others that have the potential to grow and the capacity to grow, there’s an opportunity here for them to see additional funding come back to them.”
The OU Board of Regents are currently scheduled to meet March 8 and 9 at the OU Health Sciences Center.