NORMAN — University of Oklahoma President David Boren spoke to a small group of students and faculty on the precarious state of Oklahoma’s higher education budget Tuesday afternoon, expressing both profound frustration and moderate hope.
Boren cited a column he distributed to state newspapers condemning what he described as the “dismantling” of public higher education in the United States.
“Has there been a vote in the legislature or Congress to abolish public higher education? No, but there might as well have been, because what is happening across the country is the budget for these institutions has been declining so rapidly,” Boren said. “We are transforming affordable public universities into unaffordable private universities.”
Emphasizing the university’s record-setting scholarship and graduation rate, Boren sarcastically referred to the further cuts implemented by the early 2013 legislative term as a “reward.”
“We’re trying to do everything we can to wake up the public, take our case to the governor and legislative leaders, and instead of turning it around — at least at the beginning of the session — we started with further cuts and disinvestment, no increase to funding at all,” Boren said.
Stating that OU’s budget has absorbed more than $100 million in cuts since 2008, Boren detailed how the capital repayment of a state bond issue that helped fund the construction of facilities, including Gaylord Hall and Lissa and Cy Wagner Hall, may be considered the university’s responsibility to pay off.
“Our share of the bond would be about $5.5 million, which — factored together with everything else — puts us about $11 to $12 million in the hole (for 2013),” Boren said. “The legislature has not decided whether or not their budget should cover the bond issue, and we’ve been working hard to emphasize the bond is a state obligation and been making great progress on that.”