OCCC raising tuition to cover shortfall

June 5, 2015 Featured Slider, News Print Print
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OCCC’s new budget plan — designed to brace against dramatic cuts in state funding — include a tuition hike and changes in student fees.

Business and Finance Vice President John Boyd said the proposal is to increase the tuition by $5 per credit hour, which is about 4.6 percent.

Boyd said the increase must be approved by the Board of Regents before it is enacted. The regents meet again Monday, June 8 and an overview presentation of the budget is again on the agenda.

“But that’s what we’re working with right now,” he said.

In February it was announced that fees associated with some OCCC programs also would increase.

Boyd said these fees are course specific, only applying to those in certain courses of study. And, for those who do see a fee increase, he said, most will only see fees increase by $5 per class.

He said relatively few students will be affected by that change.

Money-saving measures also include reductions in the employee staffing plan.

“Nobody is losing their job,” said Human Resources Vice President Angie Christopher.

Christopher said faculty positions that are vacant currently will be defunded.

At a May 18 Board of Regents meeting, college officials outlined a budget plan that prepares OCCC for a “worst case scenario” of a possible total reduction of 6.3 percent in appropriations from the state, according to college President Paul Sechrist.

Sechrist quote about budgetThe approved state budget, marking the actual reduction in state appropriations at 3.5%, was signed by Governor Mary Fallin on Monday, June 1 and will go into effect July 1.

Sechrist said the current plan is a draft that is likely to change.

However, from the beginning of the legislative session, he said, it’s been clear that budget cuts were coming. OCCC’s administration has prepared while trying to maintain focus on the overall mission of the college, Sechrist said.

“In an open meeting … we went through all the possible reductions, where we could improve if necessary,” he said,

“We’ll have to do some of them, hopefully, not all of them.”

A proposed tuition increase will remain on the table even if appropriations are not so dramatically cut, Sechrist said, raising resident tuition from $82.55 per credit hour to $87.55 and non-resident tuition from $167.80 to $172.80.

Students enrolling in the fall 2015 semester can expect to see a modest increase, he said.

Sechrist said employee wages and vacant positions will be looked at closely.

“The staffing plan is the lion’s share of our budget,” he said.

Christopher said each department on campus analyzed staff positions that are currently vacant in the staffing plan.

“I do appreciate everyone who took a strong look at their particular department and what positions that were currently vacant that could remain vacant,” Christopher said.

Eight full-time faculty positions were found that are vacant now and could remain vacant, she said.

To offset the loss of eight full-time positions, Christopher said, more adjunct professors would be contracted.

“There will be no loss of services then,” she said. “That will result in a $508,000 cost reduction.”

The upcoming closure of the Aquatic Center, and the elimination of a vacant exempt, or professional, employee position in Information Technology Services and another in Planning and Research also will reduce positions in the staffing plan, Christopher said.

She said 10 non-exempt, or hourly, employee positions will be eliminated for a reduction of $411,459.

“The total cost reduction of this plan as a result of the staffing plan not funding some of these positions is about $940,535.”

Christopher said if cuts from the Legislature are lower than anticipated, some of the positions may be added back at a later date.

At the board meeting, Boyd presented what he referred to as the colleges “budget needs” for the upcoming fiscal year. He said, in exercising good stewardship, OCCC’s outlook is positive against threats of low funding from the state.

He said in planning for a 6.3 percent reduction in appropriations, the college will need about $1.6 million to replace funds that otherwise would come from the state.

The costs of operating the college are always rising as well, Boyd said, putting additional strain on the upcoming budget.

“We’ve taken a real hard look at our mandatory costs,” he said.

“We literally have to increase operating budgets for our operating costs.”

Boyd said among the largest mandatory costs to OCCC are custodial services, waste management, groundskeeping, and property casualty insurance, all of which are rising.

The increase in tuition and the new academic service fees would provide an estimated additional $1.4 million in the coming year, he said.

After receiving word that a tentative budget agreement had been reached in the Legislature, calling for a 3.5 percent reduction in the allocation of funds to higher education, rather than the expected 6.3 percent cut, Sechrist sent an email to OCCC employees on May 19.

“With the large (state) budget deficit of $611 million, this 3.5% cut is better than expected, but still a significant cut.

“Pending Board of Regents approval, OCCC plans to manage this reduction and address the mandatory cost increases by modestly raising tuition (4.6 percent), leaving open a number of faculty and staff positions, closing the Aquatic Center, and holding steady on salary and wages.

“With these adjustments, it is the intention to maintain our focus on teaching and learning, and continue to provide a high quality learning experience for our college and non-credit students.”

Sechrist said he regrets that OCCC’s current budget doesn’t leave room for faculty to receive raises, though he feels raises are deserved.

He said alternatives in the long term will have to be explored to compensate school employees for their “dedicated work.”

For an in-depth look at changing fees, visit http://pioneer.occc.edu.

See also: State budget cycle determines college funding

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