Higher Education Chancellor Presents Legislative Agenda at SWOSU Luncheon


With fall enrollment at Oklahoma's public colleges and universities reaching an all-time high of 193,462 students and up 9 percent since 2008, Oklahoma higher education Chancellor Glen D. Johnson presented the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education's FY 2012 legislative agenda to an audience of lawmakers, community leaders and educators at a luncheon held January 7 at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford.

In November, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education voted to request a 5.5 percent appropriation increase for FY 2012.

The funds would cover increases in operational fixed costs and other institutional priorities at Oklahoma's public colleges and universities and allow them to continue to provide quality instruction, vital student services and a sufficient number of sections and course offerings to shorten the time needed to complete a degree. The request would also replace $59.8 million in federal stimulus ARRA funds higher education will no longer receive.

"Our higher education institutions have been diligent in their efforts to keep the cost of education as low as possible. In fact, a series of belt-tightening measures by our colleges and universities have resulted in $112.3 million in actual or projected savings from 2009 to 2012," said Johnson. "With the continuation of historic record enrollments, it is in the state's best interest to build on its investment in higher education, which in turn will aid the state in rapid economic growth. Our budget request allows our institutions the funding they need to operate and continue to provide our students with the high-quality education they deserve."

The state's public higher education institutions require $30.9 million in new operating funds to address current ongoing obligations such as increases in health insurance premiums and retirement costs. Utilities, library expenses, subscriptions, information technology replacements and scholarships are also expected to increase.

Increased financial aid funding will also be a priority for the State Regents in the upcoming legislative session in order to reduce the financial barriers that prevent students from attending college. The State Regents are requesting an additional $1.5 million for the concurrent enrollment tuition waiver program and $600,000 for the Academic Scholars Program.

The State Regents are also proposing a series of bond issues over the next five years to eliminate the $267 million backlog in the Endowed Chairs Program. Since inception of the program in 1988, the state has matched 772 total accounts at 27 institutions.

The total appropriation request for FY12 is $1.12 billion, a $115.6 million increase.

SWOSU President Randy Beutler expressed appreciation to Chancellor Johnson, regents, legislators and area community leaders for coming to SWOSU to discuss the importance of higher education to Oklahoma.