EDMOND — Two days a week, Chelsea Clouse gets up in the morning, goes to work at a cafe in Mustang, and then goes to class at the University of Central Oklahoma.
These days, Clouse, 21, finds herself spending more time at work and fewer hours in class than she'd like. If her tuition continues to increase, she worries it will only make it more difficult to balance her education with the job she works to pay for it.
“I just study when I have time,” she said. “I do the best that I can.”
Following last week's state budget deal announcement, officials at Oklahoma's colleges and universities are working on their budgets for the coming fiscal year. The process includes deciding whether students such as Clouse will see an increase in tuition and fees in the fall.
Since she started at UCO, Clouse, a business administration major, estimates she's seen her bill for a semester grow by $800-$1,000. She's had to take fewer hours so she can work more to pay for school, she said. She doesn't get much financial help, she said. Whatever isn't covered by student loans, she pays out of pocket.
“It's all on me,” she said.
Lawmakers and Gov. Mary Fallin announced a tentative $7.1 billion budget deal last week. That deal included a $33 million increase for higher education, an amount that falls somewhere between the figure higher education officials requested and the one they feared they'd see.
Now, officials are looking at whether that increase will be enough to cover climbing expenses, including utilities, property insurance and new costs associated with the Affordable Care Act.
Although she said it's too early to say whether and by how much tuition might increase, Northwestern Oklahoma State University President Janet Cunningham said she was relieved that the state covered the cost of the $24 million debt service on the 2005 Higher Education Capital Bond Issue.