Oklahoma higher education Chancellor Glen Johnson on Monday asked lawmakers for a 10.2 percent increase in next year's higher education budget.
That increase would bring the total higher education appropriation for the 2013-14 fiscal year to $1.05 billion, which is a $97.4 million increase over the current fiscal year. The request was made during a joint legislative budget committee hearing at the state Capitol.
The largest share of that increase — $55 million — would go toward the state's performance and college completion goals. That figure would cover a number of areas, including increased costs colleges and universities have seen due to enrollment increases, Johnson said.
The higher education system has added more than 14,000 students over the past four years. Those increases have meant an additional $4.7 million spent in financial aid, 77 additional faculty members and about 600 new course sections at schools across the state.
The enrollment increase also created greater need for IT equipment and library purchases, Johnson said.
The amount Johnson requested Monday represented $7 million more than higher education officials proposed a month ago. Johnson said the difference comes from new numbers the State Regents office received regarding payments on the 2005 Higher Education Capital Bond Issue.
The bond issue, which was passed in 2005, was refinanced in 2010 as a part of a series of cost-cutting measures that took place at the height of the recession.
The upcoming fiscal year marks the first year since then that the agency has made a payment against both the principle and the interest, said Amanda Paliotta, vice chancellor for budget and finance. For the past two years, she said, the agency was only responsible for an interest payment.
With the addition of a principle payment the total cost was greater than higher education officials had initially projected. The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education will vote on an item at a meeting Thursday that would amend the system's estimate of needs for the upcoming fiscal year.
During Monday's hearing, Johnson projected the amount the State Regents spend on scholarships under the Oklahoma's Promise program will continue to decline as fewer families are eligible.
According to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, only 46 percent of Oklahoma families in 2011 met the annual income requirement of $50,000 or less, down from 61 percent in 2000.
Sen. John Ford, R-Bartlesville, asked what the total net cost of the program would be once future tuition increases are taken into account. Those increases could easily offset any savings the state sees from having fewer students participate in the program, he said.
Bryce Fair, vice chancellor for state grants and scholarships, said the agency is projecting a drop of about 300 to 400 students each year for the next two years. Because of future tuition increases, he said, the amount the agency spends on the program is expected to remain unchanged.