Claremore Daily Progress

June 26, 2013

Regents approve RSU budget, tuition hike

Staff Reports
Claremore Progress

CLAREMORE —

The University of Oklahoma Board of Regents, which serves as the governing body for Rogers State University, has approved RSU’s budget for 2013-14, which includes a tuition increase and elimination of an employee benefit in order to offset rising costs.
The budget includes a six percent increase in tuition and mandatory fees, which will result in an annual increase of $304.50 for resident students taking 30 semester credit hours.
The measures were necessary due to a significant increase in the university’s mandatory costs, continued stagnant state higher education funding and an enrollment decline brought about by several factors, most notably the restriction of federal Pell Grants.
RSU’s mandatory costs for 2013-14 rose by $836,000, including double-digit percentage increases in major categories such as health insurance, risk management and utilities. 
Despite rising mandatory costs, state appropriations for RSU’s upcoming fiscal year increased only $244,000 this year. RSU’s 2013-14 state appropriation remains below the level it received in 2006-07, despite serving nearly 700 more students now than it did then. In a related item, the regents approved the elimination of university contributions to the defined contribution retirement plan for full-time employees, which will provide a significant annual cost savings moving forward.
To address rising costs, the university initiated more than a half-million dollars in savings this year through renegotiated service contracts, savings from unfilled staff positions and other means.  These measures are in addition to recent steps that have cumulatively trimmed millions from the school’s operating costs during the past few years. 
While the university’s current enrollment numbers are still among the highest in school history, fall and summer enrollments are behind where they were this time last year by 6 percent and 15 percent respectively. 
This marks the first time since 1999 that RSU has experienced a significant enrollment decline.
The enrollment numbers coincide with last year’s major changes in Pell Grant eligibility for low-income students, including the elimination of grants for summer study and a reduction in the number of semesters that students would be Pell eligible. 
More than 80 percent of RSU students received some form of financial aid in fall 2012, including the nearly 50 percent who received Pell Grants. With tighter restrictions on Pell Grant funding, a significant portion of RSU students have been unable to take summer classes or maintain their ongoing fall and spring enrollment.
Also reflected in this year’s budget are several improvements that have been planned for the past several years, including: adding seven full-time faculty to support programmatic needs; implementing its first graduate program (the Master of Business Administration); hiring new tutors, advisors and counselors to increase retention and graduation rates; continuing with its commitment to transition athletics to NCAA membership; bolstering the Student Health Clinic and Campus Police operations; and opening a new Pryor campus that was funded through a major donation.
“The university will continue to closely monitor our budget picture while moving forward with renewed energy in our efforts to recruit new students and to retain current students,” said RSU President Dr. Larry Rice. 
“We remain committed to keeping our costs under control, while providing an excellent education for our students.”
Enrollment is currently underway for the fall semester on the RSU campuses in Claremore, Bartlesville and Pryor. Classes begin on Aug. 12.