The latest round of state budget cuts have forced Rogers State University to trim an additional $156,000 from its budget, bringing this year’s total reduction of state-allocated funds at RSU to $1,008,603.
The Office of State Finance recently announced that all state agencies must reduce their budgeted state appropriations by 11.04 percent in March and 13.84 percent for each month thereafter for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30. The reductions were mandated as the state’s general revenue collections have continued to decline below projections.
As a result, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education has required that all state colleges and universities reduce their annual budgets.
The most recent reductions were taken from RSU’s reserve funds, which are surplus funds saved for a “rainy day.” These current reductions have not forced RSU to cut departmental budgets or eliminate any faculty or staff positions. However, RSU will not be able to fill some vacant staff positions, has continued to limit out-of-state travel and has delayed several non-essential capital expenditures.
“So far we’ve been able to spare vital functions that directly impact our instructional mission,” said RSU President Dr. Joe Wiley. “But if the budget cuts continue, we may not be able to protect instructional programs and some student services from future reductions.”
Most state colleges and universities are considering tuition increases for next fall after Gov. Brad Henry recently signed legislation allowing them to set their own tuition at levels no higher than averages at comparable institutions in other states. However, many institutions including RSU will wait until the Oklahoma Legislature in May sets state-appropriated funding for the next fiscal year before considering whether to adjust tuition.
“We will do everything we can to keep tuition rates as low as possible,” Wiley said. “But when compared nationally, tuition and fees at Oklahoma’s regional universities are among the lowest in the nation, ranking 48th out of 50 states.”
Wiley said RSU is considering a modest increase in tuition and fees for next fall, but will wait until the Legislature determines the level of funding for higher education for fiscal year 2003-2004 before it proposes a tuition adjustment.
“If the Legislature protects funding for higher education, we will be able to adjust tuition at a much lower rate. But if the Legislature reduces support for higher education, we will be forced to raise tuition at a higher rate,” he said. “I encourage the Legislature to do everything it can to avoid major reductions in funding of higher education.”
Wiley said that if RSU must endure budget cuts in the next fiscal year, the university may have to raise tuition by as much as 10 to 12 percent.
As a point of reference, a 10 percent tuition increase at RSU would raise the cost of one credit hour by $5.60, from $56.05 to $61.65. An increase of fees of up to $4 per credit hour also could be implemented, which would raise fees from $20 to $24 per credit hour.
Earlier this spring, Wiley held two public meetings with RSU students to discuss a possible increase in tuition and fees for the fall. The majority of students at the meetings understood the need for such increases and was mostly supportive.