Representing the presidents of 18 Oklahoma colleges and universities, USAO President Roy Troutt last week urged the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to rethink their new method of allocating state funds. Most college presidents were "surprised, disappointed, frustrated and concerned" over new funding levels, Troutt said.
"It appears that state-appropriated funds were allocated in an inequitable manner, causing hardship upon faculty, staff, and students of the majority of institutions of higher education within the state system," Troutt told the State Regents.
Central to the debate is a new and untested allocation procedure which redistributes funds inequitably, Troutt explained. The problem was fueled by long delays in deciding the new allocations and a lack of information provided to state colleges and their presidents.
Under the new "Peer Group Model" budgeting method, each of Oklahoma's 25 state colleges and universities is compared to similar institutions in surrounding Big 8 and Big 10 states. For the first time this year the State Regents used those comparisons in determining budget allocations. Before now, budgeting procedures were focused on the size of enrollment.
By itself, the Peer Group Model idea shows promise, the presidents say, but State Regents have not disclosed exactly which colleges are used for comparisons.
"For the peer group model to work effectively, we must identify like institutions for comparisons," Troutt said.
USAO's unique position as Oklahoma's only public liberal arts college presents a funding challenge, Troutt has long contended. Not only is USAO's mission and program unique to Oklahoma, no other schools in the region have its interdisciplinary, team-taught program offered on a trimester basis.
State funding for many of the smaller colleges and universities -- including USAO -- was cut this year, while the state's two comprehensive schools, the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, received significant increases. Allocations for the 1988-89 academic year were made July 27.
"The presidents are fully aware of the constitutional responsibility and authority (held by State Regents) for allocating funds to institutions," Troutt said. "We do not question that authority. We respectfully ask that you consider the genuine concerns of more than 70 percent of the college presidents.
Troutt addressed the board Aug. 29 during its regular monthly meeting in Oklahoma City. Troutt serves as chairman of the President's Council, the panel representing leaders of all publicly funded colleges and universities in the state. His remarks before the Regents, however, were made on behalf of 18 college presidents.
Troutt said the presidents he represented at the meeting are "concerned about the effects the allocations will have on their institutions -- their governing boards, faculties and students.
"Of particular concern," Troutt said, "are the possible effects in years ahead under the same allocation procedure.
"The presidents respectfully request that the Regents reconsider the current year budget allocation procedures and establish for future years a procedure for requesting and allocating state-appropriated funds which will be based upon a clear and established method of need determination..." Troutt said.
The procedure should be based on a known formula for allocation of state-appropriated funds, and recognized as equitable by all types and sizes of public institutions of higher education within the state system, Troutt explained.
Similar frustrations were expressed by Jack Annis, president of the Board of Regents of Oklahoma Colleges, through spokeswoman Linda Grantham, a board member.
"Although there have been minor differences of opinion between the boards, there has always been a feeling of mutual respect and expectation of equitable treatment," Grantham read from a prepared statement. "We come before you today because our Board, our Presidents, faculty, staff, students, legislators, and the citizens in our universities' service areas believe that the State Regents' allocation of funds appropriated in the 1988 legislative session cannot be explained or justified."