Students at all of Oklahoma's public colleges and universities could see tuition and fee increases during the upcoming year if schools' plans are approved.
The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education heard tuition proposals from state colleges and universities at the regents' board meeting Wednesday. The board is scheduled to vote on those proposals at a meeting Thursday.
If the proposed budgets are approved, each public college and university will see at least some increase in its tuition and fees.
Each college except one — Connors State College — is seeking an increase in tuition. Connors State's proposal includes some fee increases, including implementing a $1 per credit hour records fee to fund efforts to digitize university records.
The University of Oklahoma's proposal would increase undergraduate tuition and fees by 3 percent for Oklahoma residents and 5 percent for nonresidents. For a resident taking 15 hours of courses, that increase would add up to about $108.
OU President David Boren said the increase would allow the university to pay for expenses that went unfunded under the state's budget for the upcoming fiscal year. 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.
Boren said OU offset many of the unfunded cost increases by asking each college in the university to cut their expenses, with an overall goal of seeing $5.4 million in savings. The university met that mark, he said, but even after those savings were added to money contributed by the athletic department, the university was still left with an $8.5 million budget gap.
Boren said he's concerned about the fact that the Legislature left universities to find funding to cover those costs. In the end, he said, universities end up raising tuition to pay the bills.
“I can't not pay our health insurance,” he said. “I can't not pay our utility bills.”
Oklahoma State University's undergraduate tuition proposal includes a 2.8 percent increase in tuition and fees for Oklahoma residents and a 4.7 percent increase for nonresidents.
Joe Weaver, OSU's vice president for budget and finance, 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.
Although it's difficult to make any sound predictions before final enrollment numbers are in, Weaver said OSU officials expect the university to have the largest freshman class in university history. That level of growth means university officials must add faculty members, Weaver said.
The board will meet at 9 a.m. Thursday in Oklahoma City at the State Regents office, 655 Research Parkway.