College Presidents Irked Over Funding Changes

 

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."