To continue providing an affordable, high-quality education for Oklahomans, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education voted recently to request $27.5 million in new state appropriations during the upcoming legislative session. The total budget request for FY 2011 is 2.6 percent higher than the current year’s appropriation.
The budget request comes at a time when fall enrollments at Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities have reached an all-time high of 187,700 students, an increase of 5.8 percent compared to fall 2008.
In the face of increased demand for courses, facilities and resources, Oklahoma’s institutions of higher education have initiated several cost-saving measures such as energy conversions and retrofit projects, reductions in administrative expenses, and outsourcing of services that will result in more than $73.6 million in savings from 2009 through 2011.
“During this economic crisis, Oklahoma’s system of higher education is doing its part by accommodating expanding enrollments while tightening its belt,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “This budget request to the governor and the Legislature represents the operational funding levels our institutions need in order to maintain a high quality of instruction. Higher education is the engine that drives the economy, and we are prepared to continue to make the case that the dollars appropriated for higher education are the best investment made in the future of our state.”
The state’s public higher education institutions require $26 million in new operating funds to address ongoing obligations such as increases in health insurance premiums and retirement costs. Library expenses, instructional materials, information technology replacements and scholarships are also expected to increase.
Increased financial aid funding will also be a priority for the State Regents in the upcoming legislative session in order to reduce the financial barriers that prevent students from attending college. The State Regents are requesting an additional $100,000 for cooperative alliance fee waivers and $200,000 for Regional University Baccalaureate Scholarships.
The State Regents also seek to increase funding for the concurrent enrollment program, which allows high school juniors and seniors to take credit-earning college courses. The State Regents propose to increase funding for the program by $875,000.
The State Regents will seek $249,880 for the Office of Accountability. The office administers two state programs: the Oklahoma Educational Indicators Program and the Oklahoma School Performance Review Program.
The State Regents also approved a supplemental request of $35.8 million for FY10. These funds would restore institutional budgets and offset the 5 percent cuts assessed monthly this fiscal year due to the general revenue shortfall.
The total appropriation request for FY11 is $1.09 billion.