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December 18, 2008 :: College Tuition in State Still Lower Than Peers, Study Shows

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Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities are keeping tuition and mandatory fees below posted legislative peer limits as specified by state law, according to a higher education report released today.

Information contained in the “2008-09 Tuition Impact Analysis Report,” a detailed report compiled by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, shows that Oklahoma residents pay an average of $740 less in tuition and mandatory fees for an undergraduate education than their peers in other states.

“We are pleased that a college education in Oklahoma is still one of the most affordable in the nation,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “It’s extremely important that all students have an opportunity for a college education and that we help them discover all sources of available financial aid, as well as keep our costs as low as possible. The State Regents and our state system institutions are committed to engaging in efforts that address college accessibility, affordability and accountability so that our graduates will be prepared for the global marketplace.”

The tuition impact report reveals that students who enrolled in 30 credit hours at the state’s research institutions – Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma – pay an average of $6,347 in tuition and mandatory fees, compared to $6,858 at peer institutions. OU and OSU continue to be ranked among the lowest of the Big 12 for undergraduate resident tuition and mandatory fees.

Students enrolled at the state’s regional universities pay an average of $4,181 for resident undergraduate tuition and mandatory fees compared to $4,718 at peer institutions. The widest gap is in the community college tier, where Oklahoma students pay an average of $2,622 for 30 credit hours compared to $3,582 at peer institutions.

Tuition and mandatory fee increases for the 2008-09 year, which amount to about $34 a month for a full-time resident student, have had minimal impact on students’ ability to pay for college, according to the report.

Institutions have increased the amount of financial aid available to students to help offset the 9.1 percent average tuition and mandatory fee increase. Resident tuition waivers increased this year throughout the state system by $5.8 million, or 11.9 percent. Institutions have also implemented other strategies to help students and their families, including creating or expanding tuition scholarship programs for low- to middle-income students, providing additional funds for on-campus jobs and providing alternative payment options throughout the year.

Beginning this year, students in the state who are entering a four-year university for the first time will have the opportunity to take advantage of a guaranteed tuition rate. This means a student will lock in a tuition rate not exceeding 115 percent of the institution’s nonguaranteed resident tuition rate. The rate will be guaranteed for four years or the normal time to complete certain programs.

The State Regents recently received more than $915,000 from the U.S. Department of Education for the College Access Challenge Grant to provide up to 620 scholarships to students who are near completion of a college degree and have demonstrated a need for financial aid. The State Regents continue to provide funding for concurrent enrollment waivers to encourage high school seniors to attend college. Due to a permanent funding source from the Legislature, those students eligible for the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program will continue to have the tuition portion of any increase covered.

This year’s tuition and mandatory fee increases have also had little impact on enrollment, the report states. This fall’s preliminary enrollment figures remained steady, although fewer high school graduates, military deployments, increased fuel prices, the economy and the tightening employment market may impact enrollment trends in the future.

The report also revealed that institutions communicated potential tuition and mandatory fee increases to the students in a variety of ways. Most of the students understood the reasons for the increases and accepted them as necessary to ensure the quality of instruction. In addition, institutions continued their commitment to provide cost-effective and cost-efficient operations.
In 2003, legislators granted colleges and universities tuition- and fee-setting authority within prescribed limits, requiring the State Regents to provide them with a detailed annual report on how the state system is complying with certain provisions set forth in the law.

The State Regents will present this year’s findings to Gov. Brad Henry and state lawmakers in early 2009.