Three significant changes are needed for Oklahoma to maintain quality
higher education over the long term during down economi c periods,
University of Oklahoma President Frank E. Horton said Tuesday.
These include providing more flexibility in the distribution of
funds, limiting the access of students to certain programs and
accelerating the increase of tuition.
"We have to become supply driven," said Horton in an interview
following Monday's estimate of a 9 percent state budget cut for the
fiscal year starting next July 1. "We have to base our funding on
what it takes to supply quality education.
"Right now, our funding is based on demand - the number of
students. A 9 percent budget cut would mean a cut of $10 million at
the University of Oklahoma. That would be devastating to our quality
of education under our current formula-based system of distributing
The current system results in a "Catch 22" during a down economic
period, he said.
"If we have a cutback in state funds and have more students next
year," he continued, "we won't be able to absorb the students. If we
have a cutback in state funds and less students, we will have even
less money, because tuition will be down."
The state of Oklahoma is now 50th in the nation in private and
state support per student, and that's before the cutback for next
year, he said.
Horton, who became president of OU in September, went through a
similar situation in the early 1980s as chancellor of the University
of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. His solutions for Oklahoma are similar to
the way Wisconsin met its problems.
His basic idea is to provide the flexibility for "a stabilized and
systematic" approach to quality education by maintaining a "realistic
but high quality" faculty, he said.
With that in mind, Horton suggested the following changes:
- Abandon formula funding, which is based on distributing funds
according to the number of students.
"In its place," he said, "we should give university managers the
flexibility of maintaining certain programs at a quality level and
In this way, the university could provide needed raises to keep
quality faculty members in certain programs during down economic
times, he said. In good times, other programs could be increased.
- Ration the access of students to higher education. This could
mean "putting a cap" on the number of students in certain programs to
insure quality education in those programs, he said. …