The upcoming fiscal year marks the first year since then that the agency has made a payment against both the principle and the interest. For the past two years, the agency was only responsible for an interest payment.
If that debt hadn't been covered, Cunningham said, it would have placed colleges and universities in a difficult financial position.
“That would have been a huge hit if institutions had had to try to find that,” she said.
In a statement, University of Oklahoma President David Boren gave guarded praise for the increase. Boren, who has expressed alarm about what he has called the quiet dismantling of public higher education, said the increase was encouraging.
“I am pleased that we have started to make progress, even if incremental, back toward the amount of support we received in 2008,” he said.
At a tuition hearing last week, Boren told OU students tuition increases would be likely if the university didn't see a certain amount of funding from the state.
At the hearing, Boren told students the university needed to cover about $8 million in mandatory cost increases. If those costs weren't covered by the state, he said, they likely would be shifted to students in the form of increases in tuition and fees.
Once the $24 million debt service is paid, the budget deal leaves about $9 million to cover mandatory cost increases for every institution in the state.