The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education voted recently to request $34.7 million in new state appropriations during the upcoming legislative session. The total budget request for FY 2013 is 3.7 percent higher than the current year’s appropriation.
The budget request comes at a time when fall enrollment at Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities remains at record levels for the fifth consecutive semester. Since 2008, fall enrollment has increased by more than 16,000.
“Oklahoma’s system of higher education continues to cut costs and tighten its belt while enrollment is at record levels and the number of college degrees earned increases each year,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “There is no better investment for our state than higher education. After three years of budget cuts, we continue to provide a top-quality educational product to our students at a very affordable cost as we produce an educated workforce to meet the demands of our global marketplace.”
A total $347.3 million of actual and projected cost savings has been identified from 2009-13. These savings come from several areas, including energy conservation and conversion, changes and elimination of positions, and reductions in supplies. Savings in technology costs amount to $40 million annually.
To continue providing an affordable, high-quality education for Oklahomans, the state’s public higher education institutions are requesting $27.8 million in 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 seek to increase funding by $1.6 million for the concurrent enrollment program, which allows high school juniors and seniors to take credit-earning college courses.
The State Regents will seek $98,729 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 will also propose a series of bond issues over the next five years to eliminate the $271 million backlog in the Endowed Chairs Program. Since inception of the program in 1988, the state has matched 772 total accounts at 21 institutions.
The total appropriation request for FY13 is $980 million.