Unless additional money is allocated to higher education in Tulsa, the state may end up constructing new classroom and lab space that cannot be staffed by OU and OSU faculty because of a lack of resources, according to State Senator Penny Williams.
"We're expanding classroom and lab space to meet the higher education needs of Tulsa, but unless OU and OSU get the money they need to staff the facilities, we face the prospect of having classrooms and students with no teachers. That would be an embarrassment," said Senator Williams.
In a recent letter to the State Regents for Higher Education, the Tulsa legislator asked the oversight board to appropriate an additional $2.84 million in surplus revenue to OSU-Tulsa and the OU-OSU Graduate Center for new technology. The State Regents received the windfall thanks to a last-minute, line-item veto earlier this month. The panel is expected to decide what to do with the money when it holds its monthly meeting tomorrow.
Senator Williams noted that she allocated $1.1 million of her share of capital bond funds to Tulsa higher education this year, earmarking the funding for the refurbishment of classrooms and labs. The funds were part of a statewide bond issue approved by the Legislature in May.
"We have money for computers and classroom equipment, but we need funding for the human capital of a university - the faculty and staff that instruct the students. Without that additional money, the Tulsa higher education system will never be able to meet the needs of our community and our economic development efforts will suffer as a result," said Senator Williams.
When the State Regents divided the budget pie at the end of the legislative session, higher education interests in Tulsa only received a fraction of the money they requested to meet their needs. University officials say they are being forced to dip into their reserve funds to hire new faculty, expand degree programs and make other changes required to fulfill OU and OSU's new mission in Tulsa.
Senator Williams is hoping that the State Regents will correct that oversight when they meet tomorrow.
"The best thing the State Regents could do is allocate the bulk of the $2.8 million in surplus revenue to Tulsa. The state has made a commitment to expand the presence of OU and OSU in Tulsa and it needs to make good on that pledge. The additional allocation would be a step in the right direction," said Senator Williams.