All but two of Oklahoma’s 25 public colleges and universities are seeking an increase in tuition and mandatory fees — averaging 5.8 percent systemwide — for the coming academic year.
College presidents presented their fiscal year 2015 budgets and tuition requests Wednesday to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. The Regents are expected to approve the requests when they meet again Thursday morning.
Oklahoma State University and Western Oklahoma State College in Altus will not increase tuition and mandatory fees for undergraduates this year.
The University of Oklahoma requested an increase of 4.8 percent.
“The 4.8 percent would be solely allocated to the payment of our fixed cost that were not covered in the state budget,” OU President David Boren said.
Boren said the costs of things like utility bills, health insurance, building maintenance and faculty promotions have increased about $8 million.
“We can’t not pay our utility bills,” he said.
Matt Epting, president of the OU Student Government Association, said the immediate response from students is frustration.
“I don’t think I can understate the burdens that so many students carry just to be able to afford an education. We have students literally working 40 hours or more per week while taking a full load of classes. We’re weary of cost increases that outpace inflation,” Epting said.
“Overall, students just want the chance to work hard and earn a degree without saddling themselves with debt,” he said.
Boren said student debt is a growing problem and a concern as state funding decreases.
“When we raise tuition and fees, we are always very careful to give additional fee waivers,” Boren said. “We increased our tuition waivers almost $2 million to shield from the tuition increases those least able to pay.”
OU’s budget includes a 2 percent across-the-board pay increase — with a $1,000 minimum — for faculty and staff, who have not had a raise in four years, Boren said.
But those raises will not come from the tuition increase, he said.
“We cut internal costs. We were able to squeeze out enough savings.”
President Burns Hargis said OSU has been able to keep costs down largely because of fundraising, an energy efficiency program and growth in enrollment. Therefore, the university is not seeking a tuition increase this year.
OSU projects record enrollment of 37,000 students for the fall semester, Hargis said.
“It spreads the cost over a lot more students.”
Several college presidents noted they had to dip into reserve accounts to balance their FY15 budgets, even with the tuition hikes.
“It is very difficult to raise tuition and fees at all,” said President Jeanie Webb of Rose State College.
The Midwest City community college has requested a 4.3 percent increase, or about $4.50 per credit hour.
“All that will cover is our mandatory expenses,” Webb said.
Higher Education Chancellor Glen Johnson said higher officials “take tuition and fees very seriously.”
Oklahoma’s system of higher education ranks as the seventh most affordable in the United States in the most recent study released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Johnson said.
At a glance
Twenty-three of Oklahoma’s 25 public colleges and universities are seeking an increase in tuition and mandatory fees.
Cameron University 5.64%
Carl Albert State College 6.9%
Connors State College 8.1%
East Central University 6.9%
Eastern Oklahoma State College 6.75%
Langston University 2%
Murray State College 7.5%
Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College 6.9%
Northeastern State University 5.9%
Northern Oklahoma College 6.9%
Northwestern Oklahoma State University 6.9%
Oklahoma City Community College 4.85%
Oklahoma Panhandle State University 6.5%
Oklahoma State University 0%
Redlands Community College 5.9%
Rogers State University 7%
Rose State College 4.3%
Seminole State College 6%
Southeastern Oklahoma State University 7%
Southwestern Oklahoma State University 6.9%
Tulsa Community College 7.84%
University of Central Oklahoma 6.8%
University of Oklahoma 4.8%
University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma 8.3%
Western Oklahoma State College 0%