By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren hosted an open discussion of the University’s budget Tuesday afternoon, including possible impacts related to tuition and fees for the next school year.
During the discussion, Boren explained the change in the Norman campus’ components of total operating revenue budget, comparing years 1977, 1995 and 2015.
In 1977, 46 percent of Norman campus’ components of total operating revenue budget was provided for by state appropriations, 41 percent provided by other sources and 13 percent came from tuition and fees.
In 1995, 32 percent came from state appropriations, 52 percent came from other sources and 16 percent came from tuition and fees.
Jump to 2015, and the university estimates that if state funding cuts increase by 5 percent, then only 15 percent of Norman campus’ components of total operating revenue budget will be provided for by state appropriations, 51 percent will come from other sources and 34 percent would come from tuition and fees.
“We are putting more and more of the burden on students and their families,” Boren said. “How do we move forward in the midst of the state defunding us?”
According to informational charts at the presentation, OU estimates that the following for Fiscal Year 2015 would be a total of $8,400,000 fixed costs:
· Building operations and maintenance — $400,000
· New buildings coming online — $300,000
· Utilities — $1,000,000
· Additional financial assistance for students — $5,300,000
· Faculty promotions and faculty compression — $1,400,000
Additionally, Boren went over the following OU budget facts:
· Fixed costs = $8,400,000
· Five percent cut in state funding = $6,800,000
· One percent increase in tuition and fees = $1,500,000
· One percent across-the-board salary increase = $2,700,000
With $8,400,000 fixed costs and the possible $6,800,000, or 5 percent, cut to state appropriations being considered by the state legislature, Boren said that would create a $15,200,000 deficit.
Increasing tuition and fees by 10 percent (a total of $15 million) could cover the deficit, but Boren said OU would not do that to its students.
“How do you close this deficit? We’ve been cutting off the fat and down to the bone of our programs. We’re down $100 million in cuts from the legislature since 2008 ... We’re working hard every day to change that original budget that came before the legislature, that $50 million cut.”
Boren said closing the deficit had nothing to do with the university’s high bond rating, but it was about balancing the budget, and when the university receives less from the state, funds have to come from other places.
Boren said the university was looking at different ways to close the deficit — for example, putting off buying new equipment or further energy conservation. Additionally, the university has kicked up research to bring in money and has relied prominently on private gifts in recent years.
“We’re talking to all the colleges and deans and asking, ‘Do you have any money rat-holed anywhere for a rainy day?’ because its raining,” he said. “We need to figure out what to do.”
The University of Oklahoma has one of the lowest undergraduate resident tuition rates in the Big 12, beaten only by West Virginia. For the 2013-2014 academic school year, Big 12 undergraduate resident tuition and mandatory fees averaged $8,774 — which excludes OU and Oklahoma State University — while OU’s undergraduate resident tuition came in at $7,341.
OU also offers the lowest out-of-state tuition and mandatory fees in the Big 12. OU was more affordable than OSU in both categories.
Funds for upcoming projects such as two new residential colleges, tornado shelters, remodeling Kaufman and Gittinger halls, growth of the physics building and the fellows program, and possible stadium improvements come from Section 13 Constitution money, bonds and private gifts. Boren said none of these projects would come to fruition by way of student tuition and fees.
“We’ve been really fighting to do two things — become a better university and trying to remain as affordable as possible. And juggling those two is the reason I have the Excedrin bottle. How do you stay a great university and provide the best education as possible while remaining affordable? They conflict, and you have to constantly try to strike a balance,” Boren said.
The university hopes that the proposed 5 percent cut to state funding decreases so the cost is not passed on to faculty, staff or students and tuition and fees. He said he wouldn’t know what the exact increase to tuition and fees would be until the legislature makes its final decision, but at that time, OU would let the community know.
“We face a real challenge. We are not treating higher education as a state obligation in the way in which it was created as a state obligation, a public university. This is the long and short of it,” Boren said. “I wish I could tell you today what the deficit is going to end up being, and I wish I could tell you the legislature is going to get rid of that 5 percent cut.
“Urge anyone you know, your state legislature, not to leave us with that 5 percent cut and to help us out of this situation. Say a little prayer, but know we haven’t given up.”
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