Stillwater News Press

OSU Update

May 10, 2011

NEW: Oklahoma Legislature's budget deal represents 5 percent cut to higher education

Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis says the 5 percent higher ed cut in Oklahoma's budget deal is doable for OSU

STILLWATER, Okla. — Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis told faculty members Tuesday afternoon the university is prepared to weather 5 to 7 percent cuts in state appropriations.

Tuesday evening, Gov. Mary Fallin and Republican leaders of both houses of the Oklahoma State Legislature announced the university would receive just that.

Hargis spoke at the OSU Faculty Council’s May meeting Tuesday, where he told faculty members he expected the university would be able to continue its mission despite any cuts in state appropriations.

At a joint press conference Tuesday evening, Fallin and leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature announced a deal that uses a combination of agency budget cuts, money from a cash reserve fund and a transportation bond issue to plug a $500 million hole in the budget.

Under the budget plan, cuts to health and human services agencies are limited to about 1.2 percent, while transportation will essentially be held harmless once a $70 million bond issue is approved to continue funding road and bridge projects. Public safety agencies also were shielded to cuts totaling about 1.4 percent, including a half-percent cut to the budget of the Department of Corrections, which is expected to eliminate the need for additional furloughs of prison workers.

The budget includes 5 percent cuts to higher education and 4 percent cuts to common education. Both cuts will hinge on a separate agreement on $21 million in supplemental funding from excess collections on the gross production tax on oil.

Added to the cuts to state appropriations is the fact that OSU is facing the upcoming fiscal year without a safety net. In recent years, the university has relied on stimulus money and the state’s rainy day fund for support, both of which have been depleted.

Despite the cuts, Hargis told faculty members he was confident the cuts wouldn’t affect academics at the university.

“We have been both preparing and dreading this year,” Hargis said. “We’ve been preparing for that, and I feel like we’re going to be able to move forward and not diminish our academic mission at all.”

The university’s enrollment numbers for the upcoming academic year have been “robust,” Hargis said, meaning part of the cuts may be offset by an increase in revenue from tuition. During the 2010-2011 academic year, the university experienced its largest freshman class since 1981, and Hargis said he expects the 2011-2012 freshman class will be even larger.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see 4,000 students in this class,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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