? OU regents' $1.2 billion budget will boost student costs 6.5 percent

By James S. Tyree

Transcript Staff Writer

ARDMORE ? The University of Oklahoma Board of Regents on Thursday approved an operating budget of nearly $1.2 billion for fiscal year 2006, which will begin one week from today.

The budget includes a 4 percent average pay increase for Norman campus faculty and staff ? 2 percent across the board and an average 2 percent on merit ? and a 6.5 percent increase for resident tuition and fees.

The board passed the budget during its June meeting held near Ardmore at the Noble Conference Center Pavilion.

Full-time resident undergraduates will pay $268 more per year, up to $4,408, based on 30 credits. OU President David Boren said the tuition increase is lower than the double-digit raise once feared for this year.

The university raised tuition and fees by 10 percent last year and by more than 20 percent in 2003 to make up for lower state funding.

"Any increase in tuition and fees is difficult, but I am happy to report that we have been able to avoid the anticipated double-digit increase and will have the lowest increase in recent years," the president said. "... These increases will keep OU in the lowest two universities in the Big 12 in terms of student costs."

Non-resident undergraduate tuition will go up to $263.10, and their 30-credit cost for tuition and fees will be $12,301. For the Graduate College and College of Law, resident tuition will be $126.20 and $298.20 per hour, respectively.

Six of 11 mandatory fees for the Norman campus also will go up slightly.

Each college at the Health Sciences Center has its own per-semester rate, ranging from a little more than $2,500 for occupational and physical therapy and audiology to $7,570 for the College of Medicine.

Boren spoke again of a $50 million scholarship drive to help low- and middle-income families pay the rising cost of college, notably the Sooner Heritage Scholarship program for families making $30,000 to $75,000 per year.

"We will do all that we can to minimize the financial impact on those families who can least afford the increasing costs of a college education," he said.

Boren made raises for faculty and staff an immediate priority for this year, following raises averaging nearly 6 percent last year. Salaries stayed at the same rate the previous three years, and Boren had been intent on making salaries more enticing to attract and keep the best teachers, researchers and staff.

"We have got to get salaries up to a competitive level," he said after the meeting. "For a while we had moved up to about third in the Big 12, but then we slipped to sixth. We're still sixth (after last year), and we've got to get back up to second and third."

Boren also noted a $1 million increase for university libraries, and he credited the state legislature for passing a $475 million higher education capital bond issue that will finance several OU projects, including a new chemistry building.

James S. Tyree 366-3539 jtyree@normantranscript.com

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