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Major changes in higher education eyed // Regents setting priorities on courses
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Major changes in higher education eyed // Regents setting priorities on courses

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The day may come when college students have to pay more

to take courses that are not part of their degree programs

and some programs may be eliminated as the state Regents

for Higher Education wrestle with diminishing dollars for

higher education.

That appears to be the bottom line in maintaining quality

in academic programs because Oklahoma higher education continues

to lag behind other systems, state regents say.

At a meeting in Tulsa Thursday, chairman George Kaiser announced

the state regents would spend the next year placing priorities

on the 37,000 courses offered at the state's 25 public institutions.

Those priorities will determine future funding, he said.

Kaiser said the broad categories to be used are traditional

liberal arts, the core curriculum for all students; professional

and pre-professional programs; technical programs; general

education programs; and recreational or self-help programs.

Part of the review will focus on identifying programs within

an institution's mission, he said. Programs not considered

part of that mission may not qualify for future state funding,

he said.

"That's not to say any are infer-

ior" programs, Kaiser said. Rather, those programs may

have "a higher burden of proof to qualify for statewide

subsidy," he said.

Programs that do not qualify for state funding could be

offered if they were self-supporting, Kaiser said. Students

could pay more for the courses or local sources could be

located, he said.

The process will involve the state regents, college and

university governing boards, administrators, faculty and

students, Kaiser said.

The state regents several years ago began pushing for more

funding to bring Oklahoma in line with what surrounding

states spend for higher education. Last year, the regents

said higher education would need more than $90 million a

year in new money for the next five years to achieve an

average.

Kaiser said the peer institutions are other schools in the

Big Eight and schools in the Big Ten, with the exception

of Northwestern University.

For every dollar supporting peer institutions, Oklahoma

colleges and universities receive 60 cents, Kaiser said.

"Higher education in Oklahoma is not going to be able to

close the funding gaps with our peer states or provide the

level of educational quality that we owe our students if

we continue with business as usual," Kaiser said.

The Legislature this year appropriated $53.5 million in

new funding for higher education, amounting to a 10.5 percent

boost over last year. The total amount appropriated by the

Legislature was $562 million.

By establishing a priority ranking for each course, state

regents can shift funding to programs with higher priorities

"so the most important programs can achieve peer-level

quality," Kaiser said.

At Thursday's meeting, regents allocated funds to the institutions,

adopted budget principles and approved tuition increases

for the 1991-92 academic year.

The Legislature specified that about $28 million of the

new money was a one-time appropriation.

Higher Education Chancellor Hans Brisch said institutions

should use the money to buy library books and equipment.

The $23 million which the Legislature called recurring funds

and the $10 million expected to be generated by the tuition

hike should help finance faculty salary increases, Brisch

said.

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