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July 1, 2005 :: Continued Increases in Financial Aid Highlight 2005-06 Budget

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To help more students fulfill their dreams of earning a college degree, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education yesterday approved an increase of $25.2 million in student financial aid as part of higher education’s nearly $1.7 billion general operating budget for fiscal year 2006.

“It was a good spring for higher education, especially with the passage of the capital bond issue and an increase in state appropriations,” Chancellor Paul G. Risser said. “This allows the State Regents and institutions the opportunity to provide more resources in next year’s budgets to help more students meet their college expenses. It also affords our institutions the ability to meet many higher mandatory costs on their campuses and to continue providing a quality education at an affordable price.”

The FY06 budget will support education and research opportunities for the approximately 260,000 degree-seeking students who annually attend the state’s 25 colleges and universities and higher education centers.

Regents reported that the primary functions of instruction, research and public service continue to make up approximately 56 percent of institutions’ operating budgets. Instruction showed the largest dollar increase at $53.6 million, which makes up 46.9 percent of expenditures, followed by public service at $10.1 million and research at $7.1 million.

Higher education operating funds come from two sources: state appropriations and revolving funds, which include revenues from tuition and fees, carry-over funds, federal and local funds, gifts and grants.

State appropriations for the state system, including financial aid and other programs, in FY06 total $889.5 million, an increase of $87.4 million from FY05.

Revolving fund income at state system institutions is expected to increase by $74.3 million to $809.7 million for FY06, thanks in large part to the tuition and mandatory fee increases at state colleges and universities and an expected enrollment increase statewide of 1.6 percent or 3,000 students. Total tuition and fees will still be below limits set by the Oklahoma Legislature.

To help students pay for increases in tuition and mandatory fees, the State Regents approved a $10.2 million increase in institution-based scholarships, made up primarily of tuition waivers, and added nearly $15.6 million in state-funded scholarships, including $12 million for the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program, aka the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP), and nearly $1.5 million for the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant program.

Higher education officials said that as a result of increases in state appropriations and revenues from tuition and mandatory fees, most institutions across the state system will be able to meet $11.5 million more in mandatory costs, such as health and dental insurance and utilities, and will likely approve or propose salary increases. Institutions will also be able to hire 160 more faculty and 89 more professional staff. Institutions will also spend an additional $3.2 million for library books and other materials.

Administrative costs increased slightly across the state system, from 7.9 percent of the budget in FY05 to 8.2 percent in FY05; however, all institutions are in compliance with State Regents’ mandated caps on administrative costs.

Despite the $87.3 million increase in state appropriations for FY06, higher education’s share of the total state appropriations decreased to 14.7 percent from 15 percent in FY05, which is still well below the FY80 level of 18.6 percent. If higher education had maintained its same share of state appropriations as in FY80, it would have received an additional $234.1 million in FY06.