USAO Regents approve 2013-14 budget, other university improvements
CHICKASHA – Focusing on the quality of both education and overall student experience, the Board of Regents at the University of Science and Arts approved university and committee recommendations on budget, tuition costs, curriculum changes and several other university functions at their meeting this week.
The regents approved a budget of $12.7 million for the coming academic year. This total includes $800,540 for authorized fee waivers and a $25,283 allocation to Jane Brooks School for the Deaf.
The State Legislature has increased USAO’s appropriations by just 1 percent, or $74,700, which is insufficient to satisfy the university’s increased needs. In fact, the legislature’s funding to USAO covers roughly half the mandatory cost increase estimates and does not cover any other critical spending priorities.
To satisfy the mandatory cost increases without the necessary funding, the regents approved a tuition increase that will raise an estimated $201,500 in additional revenue for the institution.
The 7.2 percent increase will mean that a full-time Oklahoma resident will see an increase of $195 more per trimester, based on 15 credit hours.
The increase would not affect students who qualify for Oklahoma’s Promise, as the program would offset the cost, said Mike Coponiti, vice president for business and finance.
Before making its decision, the board asked the general opinion of the students from Student Government Association President Chris Collins, a political science senior. He and the rest of the SGA executive board agreed that students are willing to pay the increase to maintain the quality of the institution and the services it provides.
“We had a really good conversation about why it’s necessary,” Collins said. “All of us expressed that it was one of those situations where … we love going here and we love the quality of education. We want to keep that.”
The approved budget for the coming fiscal year includes $5.4 million for instruction and nearly $1.3 million for student services.
With the proposed tuition change, the Oklahoma resident student cost would still sit at 65.8 percent of the national peer group average. That is the lowest percentage among regional colleges, a category in which most schools sit in the mid-to-high 70 percent peer limit. The state’s research institutions average nearly 86 percent of peer limit.
In compliance with a 2007 state law that requires colleges and universities to offer a guaranteed rate to first-time, full-time Oklahoma residents – good for four consecutive years – regents also approved a new “lock rate” of $177 per credit hour.
Students can choose to pay the regular rate of $154 per credit hour or the “lock rate” that won’t change for four years. Coponiti reported that few students elect to take advantage of the offer.
In other business, curriculum changes in the English, speech language pathology, biology and natural science departments were approved unanimously. The changes, initiated by the departments themselves, do not increase the number of required hours for any particular major, said Dr. Dex Marble, vice president for academic affairs.
In English, Methods of Literary Study was removed and Technical Writing was added. In speech language pathology, Language Disorders was changed to a three hour course while Language Disorders II was reduced to a two hour course.
Biology saw the most changes with seven new required courses and seven new electives being added. Four additional elective courses were altered. Four courses were deleted and three others that were previously required courses became electives.
The basic change was to eliminate the requirement of specific pre-medical courses for all biology majors. The pre-medical courses, however, remain in the curriculum as electives to serve those students who wish to go on to medical school.
As a result of the changes to the biology curriculum, four biology courses required in natural science were replaced by the substituted additions in the new curriculum.
As a first step to a potential complete renovation of Robertson Hall, located along 17th Street, the regents approved an exterior renovation project at an estimated cost of $250,000.
This initial phase would restore the building’s exterior, including windows, doors, brickwork, landscape, fascia and tile roof.
The renovation was prioritized due to its presence in a highly visible location, raising concerns that it was a public eyesore. University officials project that renovations to the building would be complete by this fall.
In the master plan — once funding for the complete restoration is secured — Robertson will house offices for the Chickasha Economic Development Council, USAO Advancement and other offices focused on external relations as well as the Southwest Oklahoma Impact Coalition and related functions designed to assist and support community and regional social and economic development.
“I think the link this has to the rest of the community has a lot of potential,” said Regent Dave McLaughlin.
The regents also approved a request to purchase three 2013 Ford Fusions at $17,360 a piece to add to USAO’s current motor pool, replacing older vehicles. The university has not purchased motor pool vehicles since 2009.
Additionally, the regents approved the purchase of 92 new computers to enhance the campus computer network. Under state contract prices, 49 computers will be purchased from Dell Inc. and 43 from Apple Computers. Total estimated cost is $111,000. Computers on campus by school policy are replaced after five years.
Thinking of ways to reduce spending and move the university forward technologically, Lynn Boyce, vice president for information services and technology, made a request to the board to work toward a virtual desktop system on the Dell computers in labs and classrooms, eliminating the need to purchase new central processing units (CPU). The board granted her request.
As required by state law, USAO will undergo a routine independent financial audit this year. Regents approved a contract for $15,000 with Becky Fleming, CPA, Inc. in Norman, who performed the school’s audit last year.
The regents also authorized regent committees to act on behalf of the board should a matter of extreme importance arise during a time when the board as a whole does not regularly meet, with the stipulation that the committees action could be ratified in the next regularly scheduled meeting.
Regents elected a new chairwoman for the coming year and expressed thanks to outgoing chairman John Nelson, a Chickasha attorney. The new chairwoman is Regent Hilary Kitz of Tulsa. The new vice chairman is McLaughlin, of Oklahoma City, who founded the global company Advance Food. New board secretary is Chris Mosley.
USAO president Dr. John Feaver also expressed a sincere thanks to Regent Leslie Hudson, who is finishing her term. Replacing her will be Bill Lance, Jr., the administrator and CEO of the Chickasaw Nation Division of Commerce.
In personnel matters, the board approved appointments for a faculty member and three staff members as well as a change in status for four other university employees.
Leah Feild, a former HSI Sensing employee, is the new Arts and Humanities/Social Science administrative assistant. She attended Georgia State in 1999 and Kennesaw State in 2000.
Callison Vaughan was hired as the administrative assistant in Information Services. Vaughan is finishing her bachelor’s in drama from USAO this summer.
Katey Graham was the final appointee in the meeting. She has been hired as the media relations technician and assistant in the Media and Community Relations office. She holds a bachelor’s in communications arts from Southwestern Oklahoma State.
Changing status on campus, Vinson Metcalf, formerly assistant men’s basketball coach, was named head men’s basketball coach. Metcalf has served as an assistant for 15 years, helping the Drovers to their NAIA National Title in 2002. He also has served as director of intramurals.
Jessica Jackson, who previously served as sports information director, was named interim director of media and community relations. Jackson has been an employee of the institution since 2009 and was named Regents Staff Achievement Employee of the Year in 2012.
Anna McGill, who served as admissions administrative assistant was named an admissions counselor. She has been a member of the staff since 2011.
Roselee Killman went from a part-time custodian to a full-time custodian.
Resignations were accepted from Matthew Watson, admissions counselor; Kellie Driscoll, media and community relations administrative assistant; and Annette Charboneau, assessment coordinator.
Retirements were approved for Brisco McPherson, head men’s basketball coach and athletic director, and James Hopkins, database administrator.
McPherson served the university as head men’s basketball coach for 22 years and was an assistant before that. He has been athletic director since 2002.
Hopkins has been the database administrator since 2002. He has earned the Regents Staff Achievement Award for the quarter in 2004 and in 2008, being named the Regents Staff Achievement Employee of the Year in 2008.
The regents’ next regularly scheduled meeting is planned for 1:30 p.m. Sept. 10 on USAO’s campus.