Regents Approve Budget with Tuition Increase

Staff member Kellie Driscoll is awarded the Regents Staff Achievement Award/Employee of the Year by Regent Neal McCaleb. Driscoll, who joined the staff in 2007, is one of four individuals recognized at USAO this year through this Regents program to honor dedicated staffers. Driscoll is administrative assistant in the media and community relations office.

Regents Approve Budget with Tuition Increase



Regents approved a new budget of $12.4 million on Tuesday for the University of Science and Arts that is 5.46 percent lower than last year because it reflects a hefty 5.03 percent cut in state allocations.


To recover part of that nearly $717,000 shortfall, Regents also approved increases of 5.4 percent in tuition and fees. Beginning this fall, USAO students will pay about $240 more per year for tuition and mandatory fees. 


Campus housing will go up about 3 percent across the various housing plans on campus.  For students living in traditional dormitory housing, the increase is about $70 per year. Meal plans also went up by 3 percent or about $70 per year.


“It was a painful but necessary decision to raise tuition, housing, and meal plans,” said USAO President John Feaver. “State support is declining for all institutions, but we simply cannot surrender the terrific progress made in recent years under the Mission Enhancement Plan. Students are showing a clear understanding of the issues we face. Despite painful cuts last year, faculty and staff are strongly committed to protecting the college’s core mission and programs.”


Salaries for 2010-11 fiscal year, which begins July 1, will remain the same, even after 1-3 percent salary cuts and furloughs were enacted in November to recover a $303,000 mid-year cut in state appropriations to USAO. Those salaries cannot at this time be restored in this budget but USAO officials do not anticipate eliminating jobs.


Further softening the blow, fall 2010 enrollment appears to be running ahead of last year as higher admission standards at USAO – now matching the highest standards in Oklahoma – have helped to attract new students and to raise retention and graduation rates.


“We are optimistic about full recovery from current economic exigencies at USAO,” Feaver said. “USAO remains on top national lists for the quality of our academic programs and campus life, and yet we remain highly affordable – with housing and meal plans lower than most state institutions.”


Reaction from students was “positive concern,” said Mike Coponiti, vice president for business and finance. 


“We have talked to student groups about the proposed tuition hike,” Coponiti said. “In light of college cost-cutting and salary and benefits sacrifices by faculty and staff, students seem to understand and support the need for tuition increases in order to protect the quality of services we offer.”


Regents also approved a series of curriculum changes proposed by faculty. These changes would expand the options for students seeking artistic expression credit in the Interdisciplinary Studies core, and add new courses in sociology and American Indian Studies.


Regents elected Dr. Leslie Hudson to serve as chair of the board for the coming year. A retired physician and Oklahoma City civic leader, Hudson was named to the USAO Board of Regents in 2008 to fill the vacancy left by the late Jack Mildren.


Oklahoma City attorney Molly Tolbert will serve as vice chair.  Tolbert was appointed in 2006.  Chickasha attorney John Nelson will serve as secretary to the board.


In personnel matters, Regents said farewell to Dr. Sanders Huguenin, who leaves USAO as vice president for academic affairs to become provost of the University of Virginia at Wise. Board Chairman Neal McCaleb extolled Huguenin’s 13-year career of service to students as a faculty member first and then, since 2004, as administrator.


The board ratified the appointments of Gene Drechsler as institutional assessment coordinator and Cynthia Heath as custodian. Resignations were accepted from Andrew Brodeur as computer technician, Dylan Young as printing services manager, and Sunny Wiginton as admissions counselor.


Board members recognized Kellie Driscoll for the Regents Staff Achievement Award/Employee of the Year 2010. Driscoll is administrative assistant in media and community relations.  At USAO, she manages traffic and accounting for the public relations functions at USAO. She joined the staff in 2007.