OU regents approve tuition hike, $1.3 billion budget

ARDMORE Okla.

University of Oklahoma regents on Wednesday approved tuition and mandatory fee hikes of nearly 10 percent for undergraduate students who will attend the university during the upcoming school year.

On the recommendation of OU President David Boren, regents voted unanimously to raise tuition and mandatory fees for 30 credit hours by 9.7 percent for in-state students and 9.9 percent for out-of-state students. In-state students now will have to pay $5,607 for 30 hours, while those from outside Oklahoma will have to pay $14,721.

The percentage increase is the highest for OU since regents approved a 10.7 percent hike before the 2004-05 school year.

Regents also approved a $1.3 billion budget $713 million for OU’s main campus in Norman and $632 million for the OU Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City.

Boren told regents the operating budget for the Norman campus would rise by $14.8 million during the upcoming fiscal year, which will begin Sunday, because of “costs beyond our control,” including health insurance for employees, retirement benefits, utility bills, building insurance and information technology and maintenance expenses.

That, combined with an unexpected $1.2 million hit OU took this month thanks to a shortfall in state lottery funds meant the university needed $16 million in new state money to break even, Boren said. Instead, OU’s state allocation rose by $4.2 million.

Boren didn’t blame the Oklahoma Legislature, noting lawmakers drastically increased funding for higher education last year.

While explaining the rationale for the tuition and mandatory fee hikes, Boren also said OU plans three initiatives to help students who will be affected by the rising cost of higher education. First, OU will continue to cover the fees and provide a textbook allowance for students receiving scholarships through the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program, he said.

OU also will continue aggressive fundraising for scholarships for students who come from middle-income families, Boren said. He said that a university scholarship campaign that began in March 2006 has raised $88 million and that 5,000 more scholarships have been awarded during that time.

The university also has established a $200,000 fund at its library to allow for the purchase of textbooks for large, required general education courses. The textbooks will be placed on reserve at the library for students to use. Boren also said he is encouraging OU faculty members to avoid requiring new editions of textbooks for their courses if earlier editions are adequate.

“We are determined that in spite of the pressure of costs and tuition increases over the past few years, that OU will remain affordable and will keep open the door of opportunity for all qualified students,” Boren said.

Boren said that even with the hike, OU ranks in the bottom two among Big 12 Conference schools in tuition and mandatory fees along with Oklahoma State University. Last week, Oklahoma A&M regents approved tuition and fee increases that raised the cost for in-state students attending OSU’s Stillwater campus to $5,491.20 for 30 hours, while out-of-state OSU students will pay $14,915.70.

In other action Wednesday, regents accepted a $7.5 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, which will be used to establish a new research program focusing on the diseases of aging. The grant follows an earlier $11.2 million grant from the foundation that benefited OU’s geriatric medicine programs.

Regents also accepted a $5 million gift for the OU Cancer Institute from the Ardmore-based Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation. OU has raised $27 million in a $50 million fundraising campaign for the institute, Boren said.

Half of the $5 million will be used to support endowed faculty in the area of cancer research, while the other half will go toward construction costs of the cancer institute’s new $120 million cancer treatment and clinical research facility.

Also approved by regents were the appointments of Ghislain d’Humieres as the director and chief curator at OU’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art and Zach P. Messitte as the executive director of OU’s International Programs Center.

– Associated Press



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