Universities Request More State Money

Gary Barnes is calculating how to keep tuition low next year at West Texas A&M University.

His calculations show only one solution.

"We will be looking to the state to help us with support just to maintain the current cost of inflation," said Barnes, VP of Business and Finance at WT.

They are asking lawmakers during the state's legislative session, which begins Jan. 13, for a total $2.7 million over the next two years.

Oklahoma education officials will also be looking for more state money this year and they say the economy is to blame.

"When you've got increases in costs each year, increases in energy costs, and so forth, the need grows. And that's all part of our needs analysis,"said Ben Hardcastle, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, agency that is requesting funds for the state schools.

Oklahoma state lawmakers will convene for their legislative session on Feb. 2 to decide on the agency's request. They are asking for $1.18 billion for the state's 25 universities and colleges. Oklahoma Panhandle State University hopes to receive $560,000 from this fund.

"State legislature will have some difficult decisions to make this year when it comes to funding," Hardcastle said. "It is of course about priority. But we believe and have evidence to indicate that higher education is the driver of the state's economy."

Without the money, both OPSU and WT would have to make some adjustments, including raising tuition or cutting programs from their curriculum.

"No one likes to increase costs," he said. "We don't like that it's a burden to the students, especially in these hard economic times."

Barnes says one thing students need not worry about is their scholarship money.

His calculations show this fund does not need any outside support.