NORMAN — Whatever the higher education landscape looks like 20 years from now, University of Oklahoma President David Boren said he hopes it will include greater state funding for public colleges and universities.
Boren has long expressed concern about what he’s described as eroding state support for higher education, saying a lack of public support leads to higher tuition and fees, putting a college education out of reach for some Oklahomans.
Boren served as governor of Oklahoma from 1974-1978. During his term, the state established the Oklahoma Arts Institute and the Oklahoma Scholar-Leadership Enrichment Program, an Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education program that offers special seminars for Oklahoma college students.
The drop in public funding could spell trouble for the overall economy, Boren said, noting that the United States has dropped from first to 16th in the world in the percentage of its population going on to obtain education beyond high school.
“If we are to compete in a global economy, we need to regain our first-place rating,” Boren said. “This will only happen if states increase their appropriations to public colleges and universities.”
Since 1980, state funding has accounted for a shrinking percentage of college and university budgets. At the same time, other funding sources, such as tuition and housing fees, have made up a larger share of universities’ funding picture.
During the same period, the funding that goes to higher education has made up a smaller share of the state’s overall budget. Higher education makes up 14.8 percent of the state’s budget for the current fiscal year, down from 18.6 percent of the budget in the 1980 fiscal year.
Performing its mission
At a recent OU Board of Regents meeting, Boren told the board he was concerned about the impact budget cuts have had on the university’s ability to perform its mission. In most cases, he said, when budgets are slashed, students end up making up the difference through increases in tuition and fees.
Since the 1980 fiscal year, OU has seen tuition and fees overtake state appropriations as the university’s largest funding source. In 1980, the university received 38.1 percent of its budget from the state. Just 10.4 percent of the university’s budget came from tuition and fees, making it the fourth-largest revenue source.
During the 2010-2011 academic year, state appropriations accounted for just 18 percent of the university’s budget. Tuition and fees, the largest revenue generator, made up 27.7 percent of OU’s budget.
“Hopefully we will see a reversal in the steep decline in the percentage of public college and university budgets coming from the state,” he said. “This drop in state support has pushed more costs on to students and their families.”