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May 28, 2004 :: Modest Budget Increases Will Bring Improvements To Higher Education

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$34 million in new state funding will allow Oklahoma’s higher education system to continue to provide quality instruction for the growing number of college students, increase scholarships and financial aid and enhance access to college across the state.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education today formally approved the allocations for $802.1 million in funding, representing a 4.4 percent increase over last year’s appropriations of $768 million. By comparison, FY02 had the highest level of state appropriations – $860.5 million. State Regents allocated the appropriations for FY05 to the state’s public colleges and universities, various financial aid programs and other special programs.

“This budget will allow us to improve the way we prepare our students for today’s job market. We will continue to meet the challenge of building an even stronger system with limited resources and are thankful that the legislature was able to stop the trend of shrinking appropriations,” Chancellor Paul G. Risser said. “Legislators fully understand how important higher education is to the economic future of Oklahoma, and we know their goal is to return funding to the levels of two years ago.”

Risser said in light of the modest increases that were available this year, the allocations were based on three areas to encourage improvement in the state system: (1) fairness and equity among the institutions, (2) increasing access to college and the number of graduates, and (3) enhancing academic and research quality.

The bulk of the new monies – approximately $22.6 million – will be distributed to the institutions in various amounts as part of their base funding. About $5.8 million will go toward grants and scholarships awarded by the state, including $4.1 million for the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP) and $1 million for the state-mandated Tuition Equalization Grants for students attending private institutions.

OHLAP, which pays the tuition for students who meet certain academic and behavioral requirements in high school, still needs another $4.1 million to meet its scholarship obligations next year, however. State Regents expect that a portion of revenues dedicated specifically for OHLAP from the recently created Tribal Gaming Compact will take care of the shortfall. If it doesn’t, they will request a supplemental appropriation in 2005.

An additional 3,000 new college students are set to receive an OHLAP scholarship next year, bumping the cost of the commitments to a projected $19.2 million.

The Oklahoma State University County Extension Service received $3.3 million for enhancing its academic and research programs, while the remaining $2 million will be allocated to various programs throughout the state system.

“We appreciate the support our state legislators have given us this year and look forward to further discussions with them on how we can continually improve our colleges and universities and produce more college graduates, ” said State Regents Chairman Ike Glass.

State Regents will consider approval of institutional budgets during their regularly scheduled meeting June 30. Institutional budgets contain appropriations, tuition and fees and other revolving fund income.