Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Higher Education Entities Evaluate Usage of Private Companies

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Higher Education Entities Evaluate Usage of Private Companies

Article excerpt

Oklahoma colleges and universities are evaluating the benefits of using private businesses to manage or operate university programs, provide services or conduct public projects, according to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

In October, the regents approved a contract with MGT of America Inc. to conduct a study on privatization that analyzes Oklahoma higher education's outsourcing efforts and compares the state's level of privatization to states with similar characteristics such as size, location, programs and student body.

"The State Regents have initiated this survey with the support of the governor and director of state finance to determine how Oklahoma colleges and universities are streamlining operations while minimizing cost," said Chancellor Hans Brisch. "This survey gives us the opportunity to evaluate our attempts to outsource services and to determine viable methods of privatization that will benefit schools, students and the state."

According to the report, Oklahoma higher education has seriously taken into consideration opportunities to more effectively and efficiently use state funds through privatization of business affairs and auxiliary enterprise activities.

The study shows that outsourcing has increased from an average of four activities in 1998 to an average of 29 activities in 2000. Additionally, every public college, university and higher education center is outsourcing at least one business affairs or auxiliary enterprise activity. Among the 32 institutions, the University of Central Oklahoma, Langston University, Oklahoma City Community College and Rogers State University reportedly outsource the largest number of activities.

Outsourced activities include contracting with private vendors for provision of services or the management of in-house staff and resources to provide needed services, selling franchises, using vouchers, selling assets, public-private partnering, allowing private enterprises to fill certain voids, and creating in-house businesses that provide the services to institutional units on a full-cost fee basis. The most commonly outsourced activities in colleges and universities are food services, laundry, construction projects, vending, janitorial services, elevator and vehicle maintenance, bookstores, and office equipment repair and maintenance.

"The State Regents as well as each public college and university have tried to wisely manage public funds by finding ways to lower costs without sacrificing quality," said State Regents Chairman Leonard J. Eaton Jr. "It is evident from the results of this survey, that our colleges and universities have made significant progress in this area. Although outsourcing services is not always the most effective option, the study indicates that each campus has made an attempt to thoroughly examine various outsourcing opportunities before choosing to privatize certain activities."

OSU teams with Nomadics

Oklahoma State University researchers are teaming with a Stillwater company to develop a monitor that will detect biological warfare agents in water.

OSU researchers will receive a three-year, $300,000 grant to work with Nomadics Inc. The goal is a technology that will enable Nomadics to manufacture monitors that could be used in municipal water systems, storage tanks or field water supplies used in disaster areas or by the military.

"We are trying to use our knowledge of these agents along with the knowledge of Nomadics and others might have in sensing to go ahead and produce a sensor capable of sensing these sorts of agents," said Ken Clinkenbeard, head of veterinary medicine pathobiology at OSU.

The research is funded by the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology.

Clinkenbeard said preliminary work has begun on the project, which will run through 2004. He said OSU is just one institution conducting this kind of research.

"This is a very active area right now because of the perceived threat," he said. "There are a lot of different places working on strategies to detect biological warfare agents. It's a big order."

Churches online, a subsidiary of Oklahoma City-based Lone Wolf Energy, has announced the rollout of its proprietary online church information center. is a Web-based pictorial directory service for churches that also offers online prayer ministry, electronic newsletter publication, business directory, Web site hosting and other features. Monthly subscription fees range from $99 to $349 depending on church size, said Bobby Boyles, president of

"Initial demand for the product has been incredible," Boyles said. "We have had churches lining up for this product since last summer when word of its development first began to surface. With nearly 500,000 churches nationwide and more than 250,000 of them larger than 100 members, the market for this product is enormous."

The goal of is to first target individual churches and large denominations.

"In my 30 years of involvement in the local church ministry, I have not seen a program which meets the needs of the church in as many ways as," he said. "This product brings the modern day church into the 21st century with technology still in the future of even much of the business world."

Hooray for Hollywood

A state senator thinks he knows how to lure Hollywood film crews to Oklahoma -- with money.

A bill co-authored by Sen. Keith Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, would provide a 15 percent cash-back incentive on money spent in Oklahoma for movie or television production.

That figure would triple the highest incentive of any other state, said Leftwich, who says he got the idea for Senate Bill 674 while vacationing in Canada. He ran into two film crews during his visit.

"As Canadian provinces are currently capitalizing on their vast incentives, we want Oklahoma to be the first state to offer an incentive plan that will get Hollywood's attention," he said.

"If they can be all over Canada, they can be all over Oklahoma, spending money and hiring people," Leftwich said.

The, bill, called the "Compete With Canada Film Act," would permit a rebate of 15 percent of expenditures directly attributable to the production of a film in Oklahoma, such as local hires, props and wardrobe.

The bill, which has the support of the State Chamber of Commerce, says total rebates could not exceed $2 million in a single year.

Oklahoma native Gray Frederickson, Oscar-winning producer of the Godfather films, said economics is the main consideration when a film production company shops for locations.

"Once this measure is in place, Oklahoma will jump to the front of the line for film projects, from both studios and independent producers," he said.

The bill's House sponsor is Rep. Susan Winchester, R-Chickasha.

Discussing energy

Rene Ortiz, a former secretary general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and former minister of energy and mines of Ecuador, will be discussing "Latin America Energy Policies for the New Millennium" at 10 a.m. Friday in the University of Oklahoma Student Union. The public is welcome to attend.

Ortiz has more than 25 years' experience in the oil and energy industry and brings a global perspective on rapidly changing energy issues regarding Latin American, the Middle East and the far East.

The lecture is sponsored by OU's Sarkeys Energy Center and the College of Engineering.

For more information, call Sarkeys Energy Center at 325-3821.

Money's money

Filing a late campaign report last summer has resulted in a $325 fine for a former Republican candidate for Oklahoma's 2nd Congressional District.

Steve Money's campaign paid the civil penalty levied by the Federal Election Commission.

Money lost his bid for the GOP nomination in the 2nd District to Andy Ewing, who went on to lose the election to Democrat Brad Carson.

The 2000 election cycle marked the first campaign season in which the FEC cracked down on congressional candidates who failed to file timely campaign reports or failed to file them at all.

The FEC also fined several incumbent members of Congress for filing late reports.

Inhofe named chairman

Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., has been officially named chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation & Infrastructure, which is responsible for overseeing federal highway programs, civil works projects and water resources development.

"Investments in our roads, bridges and public infrastructure are vital to our future economic well-being," Inhofe said on Monday. "This committee plays a key role in keeping our country's commitment to these investments.

Inhofe said he plans to have the committee conduct a series of oversight hearings on the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, which authorized federal surface transportation programs for the six-year period of 1998 to 2003. The hearings will examine how the programs have worked and what changes might need to be made in the upcoming reauthorization.

Inhofe also intends to explore the concept of allowing states to keep a significant portion of their federal gasoline taxes without sending the money to Washington. Currently, gasoline tax revenue goes into the federal highway trust fund and all states are guaranteed to receive back at least 90 percent of what they contribute. Without this round trip to Washington, it has been suggested that states would be able to make more efficient use of the funds.

The Transportation Subcommittee is also responsible for overseeing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' civil works programs and the Appalachian Regional Commission. In addition, it addresses the water supply and management issues of the Water Resources Development Act and the federal government's public buildings and economic development grant programs. Inhofe said he decided to make the change in subcommittee chairmanships because of his strong interest in highway and infrastructure issues and their importance to both the state of Oklahoma and to the nation.

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