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Notes from the Regents for Higher Education meeting on tuition 6-20-12

By   /   June 20, 2012  /   4 Comments

Below are notes taken during the meeting of the Regents for Higher Education on Wednesday, June 20, 2012.  This was a discussion-only meeting dealing with tuition increases at state colleges and universities. The presidents of each institution or another representative, made a presentation to the Regents.

Glenn Johnson: we are now 7th most affordable state to attend college which includes tuition, room and board and other costs. We got input from students, faculty and other interested parties.


Dr. Jerry Steward, OCCC:  4.2% modest increase. Our tuition would go from 71.55 to 74.55 for resident students. Student activity fee would go up a dollar. This would result in tuition at 59% of legislative limit for resident students. Full-time attendance would be $1,485 per semester for residents. Student Leadership Council voted unanimously for a maximum increase of 5%. Last few years there has not been much new money, but costs continue to increase. Reality is no institution enjoys asking for a tuition increase. However, in order for OCCC to maintain high quality of programs it’s necessary to request this very modest increase. About $400 less per semester five years ago.


East Central President John Hargrave: been an exciting year at East Central. We have me all criteria of higher ed commission. We have good occupancy in residence halls, number of donors is up, amount per donation is up. Developing center for undergraduate research learning. Undergoing survey of businesses to find out what their needs are so we can tailor our programs to that. We’ve asked for $8.40/hour increase. Comes out to 5.4% increase. To keep our facilities maintained properly and faculty paid at a level that allows us to attract quality faculty, this slight increase allows us to meet those goals. We need to stay relevant, to provide education, purchase equipment.


Southeastern President Larry Minks: our tuition patterns is reflected by modest 5.5% increase the past two years and freeze the year before that. We’re proposing another modest increase of 5.3% or $8.55 per credit hour. Allows us to offset some of our mandatory cost increases. Budget was built to keep tuition increases at a minimum.  Glass: decrease in student technology fee? Minks: reduction in credit hours of technology courses.


Northwestern president Janet Cunningham: 6.86% tuition and fee increase. That’s 82% of the peer limit, in the middle of the regional tier. We are still a great value for our students. These resources will go towards mandatory costs: health insurance, fuel. We have a phenomenon going with oil industry leading to very low unemployment. We are struggling to keep our staff so we are providing an increase to try to keep them. Our major academic priority is course redesigns in English and Math. Parker: has the economic activity affected persistence of students? Cunningham we’ve seen it this spring, especially among students who can’t make up their mind about college. Students can get a CDL and make $50K per year as a truck driver. It’s scary. Harrel: when the boom ends, which it will, those students need this education later on, for certain.


Southwestern President Randy Beutler: we’re facing some of the same problems as Northwestern. We try to emphasize that at some level they stay with it. Our budget is based on keeping pace with classes we have to offer. Barely tracks with inflation. We have tradition of quality. We have 15 nationally accredited programs. Important that we recognize our faculty and staff. We haven’t seen compensation increase in three years.  We’ve been frugal with our resources. Our request for 6.86% increase, two years ago our increase went to the events center. We have lowest administration cost of nearly any regional university in the nation. Five years ago it was $550 less.


Tulsa CC president Tom McKeon: went through strategic planning process in last 18-months. Focusing on goal of student learning, student success. I meet with students about budget, talk about mandatory cost increases. Students agreed to support modest increase in tuition and fees. Proposing $4/credit hour or 3.92% increase. We think that’s a modest request. Johnson: talk about role of students in the process? McKeon: meet with student leaders in April. What we hear from our students, they want to maintain the programs we have and delivery methods including online. They’re willing to pay  modest increase to maintain that. Health insurance is the largest mandatory budget increase. Utilities were flat.  A little over $1M in mandatory cost increases.


USAO President John Feaver: requesting 7.1% increase in tuition and mandatory fees. We are struggling to protect the progress we have made. Vetted the increase with student groups. They understand that with state subsidy on decline, they are the vanguard for quality.  Will add $12/hr to cost of enrollment.


Langston University President Kent Smith: some of our budget priorities: mandatory cost increases, keeping costs affordable for students. Raising tuition is always the last resort. We’ve have a policy in place that a student has to pay past bills to continue the next year. We had been lenient, now there is zero tolerance policy. Current students currently owe $1.8M in back bills. We’re going to adhere to those policies. proposing 5.5% increase. Some students owe $10K to $15K and we can’t continue that. If we believe in the product we’re offering we have to collect for that. We may see a slight dip in enrollment as a result.


Northern OK College President Cheryl Evans: start with good news: for 2nd year we’re recognized as in top 10% of community colleges in the nation. Only one in OK.  I’ve learned our staff continues to be great stewards of the resources we get. Mandated expenses will increase $310K. Determined small increase for students will be needed. Sought opinion from student leaders. They all agreed and understand. Proposing 6.2% tuition increase for coming year. We have great needs in technology. Tech fee has not been raised since 2002, seeking $1 increase in that. When fees are included, increase is 6.8%


White: it would be helpful for me if total enrollment including in-state and out-of-state would be helpful in the future. Johnson: we’ll do that.


Western OK State College President Phil Birdine: our board of regents approved request for 5% increase in tuition. Student government association was very inquisitive and we secured their support. No increases in fees for the second year in a row. We represent 5-county service area. Demographics are shrinking. Our board is sensitive to issues affecting families. They want us to hold down costs and we do that. We are fortunate that technology allows us to go across borders and our FTE has not diminished. We are proud of our technology. We have a rigorous training program for online teaching. We have students in the Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, all over. Glass: are you serving a lot of students not on campus? Birdine: yes, 75% of our students are in our service area. California, Florida, Texas, Kansas and international make up most of the rest. If you Google “Winter Intersession” I’d be upset if Western wasn’t in the top 6 results [it’s #3 for me] White: what percentage of FTE are online? Birdine: Fall semester it could be as high as 35% Parker: have you talked with any of your colleagues about this? Birdine: when we started this we decided it took a cultural change. Parker: how do accrediting agencies deal with this? Birdine: they are supportive of online courses, but they are very strict about it.


Eastern OK State College President Stephen Smith: we are trying to move more towards that online model. It’s not an easy process. Started three years ago. Got a $2M grant last year. Should be able to take next step in a couple years. Western has an excellent model. We are requesting 5% increase in tuition and fees. We will be dipping into reserve funds a little bit. Not reducing any programs or staff. We went out and pursued $5.5M in master lease program to improve buildings.  A student brought forth request to do something for faculty and staff. We will be looking at that once fall enrollment figures are in. We had a record year in terms of grants. About $16.3M. We serve the poorest part of the state and the diversity allows us to apply for those.


Murray State College President Joy McDaniel: Recommended 5.6% increase in resident tuition. With appropriations being relatively flat and mandatory costs increasing, we have to do that. We talk with students about that and they say if we can keep it to a minimum it’s okay. Financial Aid makes every effort to maximize support students receive. Community college tuition remains best value for education in the state. We have very little resistance from our students. We have hearings on our campus and they are supportive. We raised nearly $10M last year. Chickasaw nation has been a great partner. My great concern is we have dropped 20-slots in nursing program due to funding. We got a grant 5 years ago that ran out. Johnson: when we made our request for funding, we included things like that. McDaniel: every year since we got the grant I made the request. We had a vacancy in the nursing program that we didn’t fill which is why we lost the 20-slots. Massey: we need to spend more time on this. It needs to be corrected somehow. Johnson: this is a good example of the consequences of budget cuts and a flat budget. Massey: have you met with the Chickasaws and Choctaws on this? McDaniel: yes and the Chickasaws already help us pay for nursing programs.


Northeastern State University president Steve Turner: requesting 5.5% increase. Met with student groups in March. I said I was optimistic that the state would fund mandatory cost increases. Faculty and staff have not had pay increases in five years. Students hadn’t realized raises hadn’t been given. They said they’d be supportive of raises and mandatory cost increases. Brought student governor back when state budget was passed. We’ve reduced staff by 6.25FTE. Used reserves last year to balance the budget. Can’t keep doing that. We’ve cut $2M from our operational budget (positions cut, technology cost reductions).

Cameron University President Cindy Ross: it’s impossible to balance the state budget cuts with revenue provided by students. Cameron is requesting increase of 3.9% pending approval of governing board which will vote next week. In last 4 years we’ve eliminated 12 programs and added four others. We’ve merged academic departments and reassigned faculty. Foundation time and again has provided private money for scholarships. This year we will be increasing tuition waiver by 6%. It has increased by $1.6M over 10-years. For the 4th consecutive year we’ve been recognized nationally for affordability. 68% of our students graduate without any debt. We provide money-back guarantee for graduates. If employer finds deficiencies in areas of their major, we will refund their tuition. Six months ago we had concerns about funding and legislation. While a flat budget doesn’t meet our needs, we didn’t have bad legislation and got money for endowed chairs.


Rogers State University president Larry Rice: We had challenges and saw no way to do this without an increase. Asking for 5.7% tuition and fee increase. Since 2005 we’ve added five women’s and men’s sports. Continue to make great strides academically. Our nurses pass the exam at 96% rate. Our students have embraced what’s going on. Having served in the legislature, I know we could have fared worse. We closed our child development center this year. There wasn’t any way short of a new building to fix that. Eliminated some low enrollment programs. We’re looking at ways to make dollars stretch. Facing accreditation in 2014. We’re on track this fall to have record enrollment for 5th consecutive year. Stricklin: what is projected impact of closing child development center? Rice: we didn’t have any programs connected to it. The building was very old and very bad. We talked about partnering with local providers. Other than loss of jobs and subsidy for non-traditional students, it will have minimal impact.


Carl Albert State College President Brandon Webb: asking for increase of $5.80 or 6.98% increase. Student government association asked for 9%. Carl Albert has lowest tuition and fees in the state and even with this increase we will be most affordable. We still haven’t addressed disparities in funding formula. We support the goals of this board to bring more degrees into the state. We have some of the best students in the country. We are committed to keeping tuition low. We have one of the highest graduation rates.


Rose State College President Terry Britton: $4 increase in tuition, about a 4.2% increase. The words we’re hearing from you and accreditation bodies is to increase recruitment and success of students. To do that we need competitive salaries, modern equipment, comfortable classrooms. We’re simply not headed in the right direction if we keep going down. We’ve avoided cutting personnel for student services. Budget for FY2013 will still be lower than FY2009. We’ve had to cut student resources. Everybody assumes we have best instructional technology on campuses. We are rapidly falling behind at our college on infrastructure for technology. Fiber optic network is approaching 20-years old. Servers are getting so old we hope they don’t fail us. We expect slight decline in enrollment primarily because of increase in employment in OKC area. And federal financial aid requirements are changing. Fiber optic network would cost millions to replace. We had AC in two classrooms fail which required using reserve funds.


UCO President Don Betz: we had 17K students, largest enrollment in school history. Expecting similar numbers for the fall, up slightly. We continue to grow because we have a hybrid student body. More students transfer out of UCO to OU, OSU and others than any other institution you have. In the last 5 years we’ve grown by 1500 students. Yet we’ve not added a single faculty member. We’ve had to rely on adjunct faculty. You can only employ them effectively to a certain point and I think we’ve reached that point. The average of our peers puts us 107 full-time faculty behind that. We’ve never taken our eyes off quality. We are asking for $9.40 increase which will generate enough to cover mandatory cost increases and stop use of reserves. We are also asking for additional $3/ credit hour increase in student activity fee as result of campus-wide vote. This was a student-generated initiative that passed 2 to 1. That’s a total of 7.9% (6.8% in tuition). That’s $1.02 more per day per student to make a wise investment in their future.  White: will any of this go to faculty increases or faculty raises? Betz: both. We will be adding eight FTE faculty and giving a cost of living increase.


Panhandle State University President David Bryant: requesting 5.9% increase in tuition and mandatory fees, aimed at maintaining faculty resources. We’ve had record increase in enrollment. Fall enrollment looks like it might fall just short of that. Over 80% of our students receive some sort of financial aid. We have textbook rental program which is the oldest of its type in the state. Our total cost of attendance, we’re at $5,395 per semester for 15 credit hours.


OSU vice-president Joe Weaver: proposing 2.8% increase. We want to protect enrollment momentum we have going. Safe to say we’ll have largest Freshman class ever. That’s one reason tuition increase is so low. We anticipate increasing faculty size. I met with student government leadership. We used social media for the first time to get message out to students. 25% said it’s okay, 75% said don’t do it. White: where will 40-45 faculty members go? Weaver: it’s driven by where the enrollment is. Parker: any raises for faculty? Weaver: no, our focus was on increasing number of faculty. Maybe there’s something we can do when we know enrollment, but this was the most prudent thing we could do. We’ll be working on retention. Every 100 students retained is another $1M for us.


Northeastern A&M College President Jeff Hale: Down $1M from FY2009. Since then we’ve had enrollment growth. Grew enrollment by 41% since 2007 low. What we’ve tried to do is prepare for budget cuts by reducing administrative costs. Eliminated a vice-president. Deans were eliminated. We had $450K shortfall. Able to hold down insurance and utility costs. Only one new faculty position requested. So that made a $750K gap. We’re proposing $4 increase in tuition and $3 increase in fees. From 99.50 to 106.50 which is 6.7% increase. Parker: how is private support? Hale: private support is good.


Seminole State College President James Utterback: facing the same situation you’ve heard all day long: increasing costs and no increases in state support. Proposing no across the board salary increases. Eliminated three positions. Closing print shop. 4.8% increase in tuition, zero percent in fees for 3.1% increase overall. Student government is supportive, understanding the needs we have.


Redlands Community College vice president Karen Boucher: asking for 4.7% increase in tuition. We have no mandatory fees. Plan to use it for technology infrastructure. Will give across-the-board raise for faculty and staff. 5% raise to everyone making under $40K and 3% for those making over $40K.


Connors State College President Tim Faltyn: we’ve had 16% increase in enrollment over past three years, but that will be flat for upcoming year. We are in a position that we are not requesting a tuition increase. Will be asking for fee increases, though. Technology fee increase from $3 to $5, implement a $1 records fee to digitize records and eliminate graduation fee and $2 assessment fee. We have a lot of testing that we’d like to implement.


OU President David Boren: this has been a difficult and challenging year financially. But it’s also been one of the most exciting years. Private support has allowed us to continue things we wouldn’t have been able to do with state funds. At $148M this year, one of the top three ever. We maintained budgetary discipline. Have hiring freeze in place. Will not have compensation increase. Fighting it out with OSU as least expensive in Big-12. Athletic department is adding an additional $1M for education budget this year. There are only a handful of self-sustaining athletic departments and we are one of those.  We still have $8.5M budget gap which made us have to make a recommendation to the board for tuition increase. Subject to their approval, we will recommend increase of 3% for resident and 5% non-resident tuition. Last year we received fewer than 20 negative comments. There’s a strong desire for excellence. There’s a deep disappointment that we didn’t get funding from legislature for increased costs.  We are doing something that needs to be on the front burner. We are slowly doing away with the percentage of the budget coming from the state. We will be below 17% this year. At what point have we abolished public higher education? It is public universities that are the most affordable. If we continue down the path of abolishing public higher education, we’re closing the door of opportunity. We continue to cost-shift to the families. We’re looking at all our curriculum to see if it meets the needs of our students. Harrel: how did we get in this position and how do we get out of it? Boren: we need to continue to be more cost-effective. We need to continue to cut administrative costs. We also need to be sure to maintain revenue sources. There was a debate this year about tax cuts which would have cut revenues without making up for it. We need to ask ourselves if that’s more important than supporting public higher ed and not putting the burden on families? What do we want to be remembered for? Living beyond our means or making sacrifices? When you consider what’s happening in other major states, I think it’s remarkable that we’ve been able to hold tuition and fee increases like we have. If we continue to nibble away, we won’t continue to have public support left. Parker: what are the consequences of diminishing state support? Boren: the cost will have to be shifted to students and their families. The doors will be closed to students from impoverished families. We are going to make it more and more difficult to create new jobs. I think it’s important that the people of OK understand, is 49th good enough? Do they really want the state to get out of the business of higher education? I don’t think they do. I’m not against lower taxes, but you gotta keep funding education. What if we do this in all 50 states? I think there are legislators that understand this. There is a perception that Oklahomans put tax cuts ahead of funding education. I think they’re misreading that but it’s because we’re not saying enough. It’s our fault. I think if people knew, they’d care. Our people are a generous people. I’m very concerned and the people need to wake up. We have an education crisis and the people need to know about it. We have the greatest opportunity economically and we should be building a solid base under that. I want govt to be as small as possible. I consider myself a conservative. 


Peter formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.