Oklahoma Legislator: Why Tuition Hikes?

Oklahoma, like many states, is having problems with public financing. The state isn’t taking in as much in taxes, thanks to the economy. Its investments aren’t doing so well either. And so it cut costs, chopping the budgets of many state agencies. It also cut higher education. And yet colleges still have higher budgets than they did they year before. This makes some concerned. According to an article by Michael McNutt in The Oklahoman:

But one legislator says the fact universities and colleges are spending more when state agencies and most Oklahoma families have had to cut back on spending is an indication that the Legislature should step up and address the way in which higher education operates.

“It is time for the Legislature to rein in the elitist, higher education establishment in Oklahoma,” said Rep. Tom Newell, R-Seminole. “The Legislature is going to have to somehow get back to a true oversight role over higher ed.”

Newell is complaining because, despite the fact that the legislature cut higher education’s appropriation 5.8 percent, almost three-quarters of Oklahoma’s state schools (18 of Oklahoma’s 25 colleges and universities) will spend more money this year. This seems odd, doesn’t it?

While it might seem odd, it actually isn’t. The reason higher education still spends more is that cost rise every year, they always do, and higher education, perhaps alone among state institutions, has other places where in can get money: student tuition.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles or the Oklahoma Abstractors Board would spend more money this year if it had other sources of funding, too.

As Newell points out:

The whole reason that their budget got cut is that Oklahomans are suffering economically and then this institution that’s supposed to be serving Oklahomans raises tuition rates at a time when their customers are least able to afford it and I just find that shocking.

Shocking? State universities always increase tuition when they get less money from the state, Newell.

Only way to get them to charge less money to students is to give them more money from the state. Maybe the solution here isn’t to try and increase the legislature’s “oversight role over higher ed.” Students don’t need more oversight; they need more money.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer