State Bond Issue Would Expand Funding for Major RSU Projects

Passage of a statewide bond issue for higher education would assist Rogers State University meet the demands of a rapidly growing student body, repair aging campus facilities and build a classroom and laboratory building on the Claremore campus.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and legislative sponsors of House Joint Resolution 1039 have proposed a $500 million bond issue to fund 140 renovation and construction projects at 36 institutions across the state. However, some state leaders are calling for a bond issue at a lower amount between $200 and $400 million. If approved by the Legislature during its current session, the bond issue would appear on a statewide ballot this fall.

The bond issue would represent the first significant capital construction on most of Oklahoma’s public campuses in 12 years and only the second major capital project for higher education in 35 years. A sample of projects would include new and renovated classroom buildings, research facilities, libraries and performing arts centers.

The bond issue would provide RSU funding to improve its existing facilities and build new ones to meet the demands of new degree programs and a rapidly growing student body, said RSU President Dr. Joe Wiley.

“The average age of the buildings at RSU is 55 years – the oldest of any public college or university in Oklahoma,” Wiley said. “At the same time, RSU has experienced the most rapid growth of any university in the state in the last four years. That translates into more students crowding into aging facilities in need of repair or renovation.”

RSU has been the fastest growing of all state institutions for several semesters in a row. Last fall, enrollment at RSU was 3,578 students, an increase in headcount of 8.4 percent, the highest in Oklahoma.

If a bond issue is approved in the amount of $500 million, RSU would receive approximately $14 million toward building projects.

The University of Oklahoma Board of Regents, the governing board for RSU, today approved a revised campus master plan for the university that includes 20 long-range capital improvement projects on its campuses in Claremore, Bartlesville and Pryor, totaling more than $52 million. RSU would be in a position to move ahead with several of the most important projects in the master plan if the state bond issue is approved. If the bonds are not approved, RSU would seek funding for the projects from other sources, Wiley said.

The most needed RSU projects include a $4 million classroom and laboratory building and a $2 million renovation of the old library to serve as a new student union on the Claremore campus, $2.5 million for expansion of the Bartlesville campus and $1.2 million for expansion of the Pryor campus. Other priority projects include a $15 million performing arts center on the Claremore campus, a $4 million renovation of Post Hall and a $1.6 million facility for the Center for Economic and Community Development.

The capital expansion projects also would have an impact on the Oklahoma economy. Research gathered by the state regents estimates that 4,000 construction jobs would be created between 2004 and 2009 if the bond issue is approved. The projects would result in an economic impact of more than $737 million statewide.