Oklahoma colleges and universities can expect to see their current funding levels continue through the upcoming fiscal year.
The Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education on Friday passed a budget for the state's higher education system that is roughly the same as the budget for the current fiscal year.
The budget is based on a $955.26 million allocation for higher education that was included in the state's budget for fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives on Thursday passed the $6.8 billion bill, four hours after the bill failed on a 47-47 tie. The bill awaits Gov. Mary Fallin's signature.
The state budget also allocates $57 million in dedicated funds for Oklahoma's Promise, a state regents program that gives scholarships to Oklahoma students who meet certain criteria and demonstrate financial need. That amount represents a $6.2 million cut over this year's budget.
Less than requested
The higher education allocation is nearly identical to the funding received last year, except that it includes as a part of its base funding $10 million the system received last year as supplemental funding.
The budget is $34.7 million less than 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.
Also included in the budget proposal were $4 million to pay down debt on the system's endowed chair bond issue and $98,729 for tuition waivers for concurrent enrollment courses, in which high school students can earn college credit.
The higher education budget eliminates funding for Oklahoma Teacher Connection, a teacher recruitment program. Amanda Paliotta, vice chancellor for budget and finance, said Thursday the program had been suspended the past two fiscal years. If the program is revived, it likely will be in a different form, she said.
Included in the higher education budget is a one-time $400,000 item to reimburse colleges and universities for part of the cost of concurrent enrollment course tuition waivers. That amount covers about 73 percent of the amount colleges and universities spent on those waivers in the current fiscal year.
At Thursday's meeting, several regents said they hoped to make concurrent enrollment courses a funding priority. Regent William Price said the program is a major asset for students because it allows them to complete college credit without incurring student debt.
Regent Jody Parker agreed, saying the board has a responsibility to support programs that have a record of helping students succeed.
“The more we do that, the better the students are,” he said.
Also during the meeting, the board approved the appointment of Von Royal to the position of system chief information officer.
Royal now serves as executive director of OneNet, a broadband Internet program managed by the state regents, the state Department of Transportation and the Department of State
Royal said he expects to be working closely with the Council on Information Technology, an advisory group that deals with technology in Oklahoma higher education, as well as chief information officers at each college and university.
Fallin asked the regents office to create the position of chief information officer for higher education. That officer would cut costs by consolidating certain services. A similar office was created on the state level when Fallin signed the Information Technology Consolidation and Coordination Act into law last year.