Budget cut crisis continues at Oklahoma Panhandle State University

Budget cut crisis continues at Oklahoma Panhandle State University
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA

GOODWELL, OK (KFDA) - Oklahoma's ongoing budget crisis is taking a toll on Oklahoma Panhandle State University (OPSU) in Goodwell.

After multiple attempts to pass a neutral budget failed, the Oklahoma legislature voted to enact an additional 0.66 percent cut to higher education.

For Panhandle State, this reduction amounts to $37,326. However they've experienced a loss of $1.78 million since 2015.

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After three years and four budget cuts, OPSU teachers like Dr. Sarah Hitch are asking lawmakers for one thing: help.

"We're small, and we pride ourselves on that," said Hitch. "That's how we can get that individualized attention. But the bigger schools can absorb this, the Oklahoma States, the OUs, as they take these budget hits, they can absorb that a lot more than we can. For us, that may mean at some point it may mean can we even offer this degree program."

OPSU President Dr. Tim Faltyn said these recent cuts make it even more difficult to provide the quality faculty and resources students deserve.

"This last budget cut was relatively small compared to the others," said Faltyn. "But when you look at it in total, it's over 26 percent of our total budget in three years gone."

Unfilled personnel positions, closure of the Guymon Classroom Building and the golf course in Goodwell are just some of the saving measures the university has had to take over the past several years.

They've also implemented a four-day work week during the summer months.

"In an environment where I haven't been able to give raises to people since 2009 across the board, it's a way for me to give them a day off, it's a way for me to sort of let them know that we really appreciate all of their hard work," said Faltyn. "I'm just fearful that we're reaching a tipping point that we won't be able to go back."

If the budget cuts continue, some students like sophomore Karen Rios worry about their ability to pay for college.

"I pay for my tuition with scholarships," said Rios. "If those are cut, it'd be difficult for me and my family to be able to continue paying for my education."

Hitch said some teachers worry about the future.

"It's always in the back of our minds," said Hitch. "It's some thing that we are always cognizant of, we're always thinking about it and we're always saying what's going to happen next."

Faltyn believes their ability to attract students will determine their success.

"It's my belief that you have to move forward when problems come and you have to grow your way out of the situation and that's our strategy going forward," said Faltyn. "We're going to grow and try to become as least dependent as we can on state money."

Faltyn said the university has redoubled its efforts in terms of marketing and recruitment.

He added that OPSU most recently welcomed the largest freshman class in the history of the university.

He hopes their wind technology technician program and starting a shooting sports team will continue to draw more students.

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