Oklahoma Regents Seek Record Budget

10-28-05 - The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education voted to ask the Legislature for its largest ever budget allocation for the upcoming fiscal year - more than $1.01 billion.

The request is nearly a 14 percent increase, or $123 million, over what the regents received for fiscal year 2006, which ends June 30. The budget proposal was approved by the regents at its regular meeting on Thursday at Seminole State College.

Included in the request is about $15 million to start paying back $475 million in bonds with interest. The Legislature approved the bond issue earlier this year for construction and other capital projects at every public college in the state.

Last year, the regents requested $892.1 million and received $889.4 million, which did not include money to pay off bond debt.

Officials said the schools need the money to pay for more teachers and researchers, higher utilities and enrollment growth.

State appropriation per full-time student lags well below other states, said Chancellor Paul Risser. Even taking into account the lower cost of living in Oklahoma, the state gives $1,212 less per student, or $160 million total, each year than the national average.

Regents also want to beef up college scholarship and grant programs, requesting $10 million more for the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program, a tuition waiver program for students from families earning $50,000 or less, and $2.5 million for tuition waivers for high school students concurrently enrolled in college classes.

The request also includes $3.5 million to restore endowed chairs at colleges and universities and $4.8 million for the Oklahoma Tuition Assistance Grant program, a need-based grant that would give $1,300 to qualifying students, whether they attend a public or private institution.