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University of Oklahoma president 'guardedly optimistic' about higher education funding

Although he is “guardedly optimistic” about budget talks in the Oklahoma Legislature, University of Oklahoma President David Boren painted a dire picture Tuesday of the state's long-term future if lawmakers don't make higher education a funding priority.
by Silas Allen Modified: April 30, 2013 at 9:02 pm •  Published: May 1, 2013

OU students saw a tuition increase of 3 percent. At the time, Boren said the increase, which was one of the most modest among the state's public colleges and universities, would allow OU to pay for expenses the state had left unfunded without placing undue burden on students.

Worrisome trend

But Boren said he's alarmed at the overall trend of public disinvestment in higher education.

He noted that state funding makes up about 19 percent of the university's budget this year, down from about 38 percent in 1980.

At the OU Health Sciences Center, state funding makes up just 6.8 percent of the overall budget. Boren questioned whether the medical school should even be considered a public institution.

“It's taking on the attributes of a private medical school,” he said.

Travis Ruddle, an OU senior who attended Tuesday's hearing, said he's concerned about the higher education funding situation in the state. He said he relies on financial aid and merit-based scholarships to go to OU. He said he hasn't had to turn to student loans to pay for school but knows many fellow students who will be in debt at graduation.

Ruddle said he appreciates the scholarships he receives from the university. But many of those scholarships are funded through private donations, and he worries that the same opportunities won't exist for students in the future. Private donors can only do so much, he said.

“It's a huge problem,” he said.