Regents approved increases in college tuition and fees Thursday, ranging from about 3 percent to 8 percent, prompting criticism from some student leaders.
“I'm against it,” said Oklahoma State University Student Government Association President Flint Holbrook. “I think we can do a lot more with the money that we have before we take an increase.”
He said he plans to lobby administrators, regents and legislators to avoid a similar increase next year.
The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved the fall increases at every public college and university in the state.
The University of Central Oklahoma topped the list with a 7.9-percent increase for undergraduate tuition and fees, taking the total cost for 30 hours from $4,717.50 to $5,091.
The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University had the smallest percentage tuition increases. OU's tuition and fees will increase by 3 percent, while OSU's will rise by 2.8 percent.
Joe Sangirardi, president of University of Oklahoma Student Association, said he was frustrated that higher education isn't a greater priority when it comes time for the Oklahoma Legislature to pass a budget. The amount of money allocated to higher education is a direct reflection of the value the state places on it, he said.
He called the increases “unfortunate, but not unreasonable.”
Before the university's budget was finalized, OU officials met with the student government to discuss the possibility of tuition increases. Sangirardi said he left those meetings convinced that administrators had done a good job of cutting costs as much as possible. But trimming the budget only goes so far, he said.
“If you cut too much, it cuts into the mission of the university,” he said.
Earlier this year, higher education officials warned tuition increases were likely without adequate funding from the Legislature. The Legislature passed a $6.8 billion budget bill in the final hours of the 2012 legislative session last month.
The budget bill includes a $955.26 million allocation for higher education — essentially the same amount the system received during the current fiscal year. That includes $10 million the system received as supplemental funding during fiscal year 2011 but was then included as a part of the annual base appropriation.
The budget is $34.7 million less than system Chancellor Glen Johnson requested in a budget proposal this year. Of that amount, $27.8 million would have gone toward mandatory cost increases, such as rising insurance premiums and utility costs.
During a Wednesday State Regents meeting, OU President David Boren said he, too, was frustrated about shrinking state funding. Boren said he was concerned that budget cuts were bringing the university “closer and closer to cutting into the muscle” of its core mission.
OU, like most other universities in the state, won't be giving its faculty members raises this year, Boren said. Even after trimming $5.4 million from the budget, Boren said, the university was still left with an $8.5 million budget gap, forcing the university to raise tuition to make up the difference.
Joe Weaver, OSU's vice president for budget and finance, said OSU faculty members also were unlikely to see a raise. The university might be able to give raises later in the year if student enrollment is high enough, he said, but university officials have no plans to do so.
Weaver said the university would use the revenue from the increase to cover mandatory cost increases and also to hire about 40 new faculty members to keep up with enrollment growth.
While tuition and fees in Oklahoma have been increasing in recent years, the state's colleges remain relatively affordable compared to similar institutions elsewhere. Tuition has been rising sharply in some states. California's four-year schools had increases last year of 21 percent, compared to the year before.