State funding issues have Boren wondering if OU will remain a public institution
As the state’s higher education funding decreases and the amount of money OU raises from private donations increases, President David Boren considers at what point the university will become a private institution.
The cost of education continues to increase as the state contributes less, Boren said in a press conference Monday. Although private giving to the university is at an all-time high, fixed costs such as health insurance and utilities are rising, leading to possible tuition increases.
OU received 16.2 percent of its funding from state appropriations during the fiscal year 2013, which is half what it received 15 years ago, according to documents provided at the press conference. The state’s appropriations for the university have also decreased from $154.20 in 2008 to $141.40 in 2013, according to the press conference documents.
Higher education institutions in Oklahoma received 14.77 percent of total state appropriations in 2013, which is the lowest budget these institutions have received in state history, Boren said.
OU recently recorded an all time high in private giving, receiving almost $140 million in the first half of the 2013 fiscal year, according to a press release in January.
As private giving increases and state funding decreases, OU is getting pushed in the direction of becoming a private university, Boren said.
Boren said he believes “disinvesting” in higher education will endanger the future of students in Oklahoma.
A college education is absolutely necessary for the U.S. economy, Boren said. The purchasing power of Americans doubled in the 28 years after the GI Bill was introduced, which enabled the average American to attend college.
Now, the U.S. has dropped from first in the world to 12th in the amount of college-aged students going on to higher education, Boren said.
When asked if the university would increase tuition this spring, Boren would not provide an estimate.
“We don’t have the ability to change much,” Boren said.
Boren said he does not want OU to begin cutting new programs that have been added in the last few years, such as the Honors College.
However, the university has begun to take measures to trim some of the fixed costs by installing automatic lights to cut down on energy bills, Boren said.
OU faculty members feel the constraints of the budget as well, Boren said.
“Our faculty is paid 10 to 20 percent less than their current market,” Boren said.
Tuition may have to increase for the university to stay competitive in hiring new faculty, Boren said.
In Boren’s “State of the University” address in October 2012, he mentioned that OU’s funding was down $90 million from four years ago, but would like to see an added $13 million, according to Daily archives.
The Oklahoma Higher Education system recently requested a $97.4 million increase for the 2014 fiscal year, which would bring its total budget to $1.05 billion, according to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.
In order for an Oklahoma public university to increase its budget, university officials must complete a “needs survey,” which includes its operating estimate for the next year, said Senior Vice President and Provost Nancy Mergler.