University of Oklahoma

Evans Hall at the University of Oklahoma Norman campus

NORMAN — A new semester, a new round of layoffs.

On Thursday, the University of Oklahoma announced 28 employee reductions split between the Norman and OU Health Sciences Center campuses.

"We will continue to address unsustainable or inefficient costs that make OU less affordable for students and reinvest in areas like competitive salaries, graduate student fee reductions, and tuition and fee stabilization," OU President James Gallogly said in a written statement.

According to a university release, the reductions come primarily from the IT department on the Norman campus and the landscaping department on the Health Sciences Center campus.

The release states that terminated employees have been notified by their supervisor and provided at least 60 days of paid notification in advance of their last day of employment and a separation program that includes compensation and a payment for insurance continuation benefits under COBRA.

IT department leadership positions are being reorganized, and IT support for new construction projects is being cut. According to the release, the reductions are not expected to impact the level of IT services provided to classrooms or offices.

The university projects that Thursday’s cuts will save over $2 million annually. They follow the elimination of 50 staff positions in November and the termination of various high-ranking administrators since OU President James Gallogly took office in July.

Last week, OU senior vice president and chief financial officer Ken Rowe delivered a dire financial report to the OU Board of Regents. He said the university’s debt is substantial and its cash reserves have dropped from over $200 million in 2013 to just over $100 million in 2018.

OU’s budget woes coincide with state cuts to higher education funding of more than $277 million over the last decade — a 26 percent reduction.

According to an Illinois State University study cited by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, Oklahoma ranked dead last in the percentage reduction in state support for higher education from Fiscal Year 2012 to FY 2017.

While Gallogly’s administration continues to look for ways to cut expenses, it has managed to keep tuition and fees from climbing. OU currently has the highest mandatory per-semester tuition and fees of any public university in the state: $9,040 for residents and $24,491 for non-residents.

After recording an annual savings of $4.7 million with November layoffs, in December, the OU Board of Regents approved roughly $4.6 million for Norman campus faculty raises. Unlike the 2-percent, across-the-board bump in 2014, the latest raises are reportedly “market-based.” The increases took effect last month and resulted in a 1.5 to 6 percent increase for Norman campus faculty.

"We've been working very hard on that with a bunch of different audiences through the fall," Gallogly told the Regents in December. "We're moving from brick-and-mortar investments to investing in human capital."

Mack Burke

follow me @mackburke4

Mack Burke is an investigative reporter and award-winning feature writer and columnist for The Norman Transcript. An OU alumnus, he has lived in Norman since 2003.