Jonathan Small | July 8, 2022
No way to justify OU tuition increase
What if university leaders managed colleges like a business and treated students like valuable customers? It appears the board of regents at the University of Oklahoma may be taking that approach.
After former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels took the helm at Purdue University, officials froze tuition rates in 2013. They have not raised them since. Daniels’ leadership proves that university officials can keep costs down and provide a quality education.
But it has been a different story at the University of Oklahoma, where OU president Joseph Harroz sought last month to increase student tuition by another 3 percent. That increase would have come on top of, and compounded, the impact of last year’s 2.75-percent tuition increase.
The requested tuition increase was not the result of financial hardship. Oklahoma colleges have experienced a significant increase in funding.
This year, the state appropriation to Oklahoma colleges and universities was increased by $60.6 million to a total of $873.4 million. Over a two-year span, state appropriations to Oklahoma colleges have surged by $103 million.
That means state appropriations to Oklahoma colleges are edging closer and closer to a billion dollars, yet we’re supposed to believe OU can’t get by without a tuition increase as well.
And the increase in state appropriations is just one part of the larger financial picture. Oklahoma colleges have received significant federal funding for COVID response since 2020 and will likely get a notable share of federal funds from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Oklahoma colleges have received significant amounts of new funding from a variety of sources. One reason policymakers provide that funding is to keep universities from hiking tuition and pricing students out of an education. Yet OU leadership seemed intent on hiking tuition anyway.
Rather than control costs, the university continues to fund many courses, programs, or degrees that provide little real-world benefit. If you go through OU professors’ bios you’ll find they focus on everything from feminist/queer criminology to women in the James Bond franchise to courses on “zombie cultures and mutants.”
Fortunately, the OU regents rejected Harroz’s plan and kept in-state tuition flat. The regents explicitly noted the challenges facing students and their families from inflation.
That was true leadership. The regents deserve not just public praise, but strong public support.
By rejecting the tuition increase, the regents showed they understand the need to keep college affordable. Hopefully, they will continue down that path as Daniels did in Indiana. And, along the way, they should also devote more resources to genuinely worthwhile degree programs.
Oklahomans need an affordable college education. But the state also needs more graduates in hard sciences and real-world degrees, not “woke” students who think one of life’s great mysteries is how to tell the difference between a man and a woman.
[For more articles about higher education in Oklahoma, visit AimHigherOK.com.]
Jonathan Small, C.P.A., serves as President and joined the staff in December of 2010. Previously, Jonathan served as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, as a fiscal policy analyst and research analyst for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and as director of government affairs for the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Small’s work includes co-authoring “Economics 101” with Dr. Arthur Laffer and Dr. Wayne Winegarden, and his policy expertise has been referenced by The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, National Review, the L.A. Times, The Hill, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post. His weekly column “Free Market Friday” is published by the Journal Record and syndicated in 27 markets. A recipient of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s prestigious Private Sector Member of the Year award, Small is nationally recognized for his work to promote free markets, limited government and innovative public policy reforms. Jonathan holds a B.A. in Accounting from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a Certified Public Accountant.