Regents approve FY18 budget for Northwestern
June 30, 2017
A cut of more than $500,000 in state funding for Northwestern Oklahoma State University will lead to a reduction in the number of employees and increases in tuition and fees.
The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education gave final approval to the 2018 fiscal year budget for Northwestern at its meeting today. Last week, the Regional University System of Oklahoma affirmed the budget proposal.
“Crafting a budget that protected the academic mission of the university and provides students with the necessary support services they require was extremely difficult,” said Dr. Janet Cunningham, university president. “You can fight your way through a year or two of budget cuts, but year after year of declining state support, especially on the heels of last year’s unprecedented 16 percent cut, has created an almost unsustainable situation.”
In the past four years the state legislature has cut nearly $2.5 million dollars in state funding to Northwestern. During that time, state funding as a percentage of Northwestern’s general budget has dropped from 40.1 to 30.3 percent.
Northwestern will raise undergraduate tuition and fees by $10.50 per credit hour to help offset the cut in funding beginning with the fall semester of 2018. The university plans to invest an additional $170,000 in student scholarships to help offset tuition and fee increases, and is working with the Northwestern Foundation to aggressively seek additional private dollars for endowed and annual scholarship support.
“The ramifications of raising tuition and fees are not lost on anyone,” Cunningham said. “We know some students may not be able to continue working toward a degree. There are real consequences to the cuts in state funding. We are losing the potential of a generation.”
Northwestern will eliminate two staff and one faculty positions for FY18. In the past two years, 17 positions have been eliminated through attrition.
An increase in the cost of employee health insurance and absorbing the cost of debt service on bond projects, an expense previously paid for by the State of Oklahoma but not covered this year, will place a further strain on the budget.
Cunningham said the budget reflects a commitment to place student success at the forefront of operations. More than 80 percent of expenditures are investments in instruction, scholarships, student services and academic support. Only 6.3 percent of the general budget is allocated to administration and institutional support.
Looking forward, administrators are concerned that FY18 state appropriations may be threatened by legal challenges to the state budget and by the overestimation of projected revenue generated by new taxes and fees. With this in mind, four staff positions included in the budget will remain unfilled until there is greater confidence in the revenue stream.
“The devaluing of public higher education by some in the legislature and by outside groups has created a challenging environment for both students and employees,” Cunningham said. “I am so proud of the work of our faculty and staff. They have been asked to do much more and have met every challenge.
“On behalf of our students we will continue to make the case for increased funding of higher education. It’s their future at stake.”