Over the next two days, Haskell Indian Nations University officials are expected to unveil the university's plan for coping with budgets that for several years have not kept pace with inflation.
The plan may - no one knows for sure - include another increase in student fees.
Haskell president Karen Swisher will review the university's options today during a meeting of the school's Board of Regents.
On Thursday, the regents will convene a daylong Tribal Leaders Summit aimed at gauging the willingness of several tribes to offset declines in federal support.
"We sent invitations to about 25 tribal leaders from all over the country," said Haskell spokeswoman Lori Tapahonso. "We're very excited."
Earlier this year, Haskell officials revealed:
¢ The utilities budget wouldn't cover a $240,000 spike in natural gas costs.
¢ The operational budget - faculty and staff salaries, primarily - had been cut $238,000.
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¢ The maintenance department's $4.1 million budget had taken a $600,000 cut, setting the stage for employee layoffs for the summer.
Haskell's budget is set by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, an agency within the U.S. Department of Interior.
Earlier this year, several federal agencies saw their budgets cut 1.5 percent across the board in an effort to offset the costs of Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq and tax cuts. The bureau passed its cut on to Haskell.
"Basically, what happened to Haskell is what happened to every other federal agency," said bureau spokeswoman Nedra Darling. "They've taken cuts that were congressionally mandated."
In recent months, some of the Haskell cuts have been restored and few, if any, maintenance workers are now likely to be laid off. And last year's fee increase appears to have offset most of the cuts in faculty salaries.
Still, the university's budget is, at best, break-even at a time when enrollment demands are increasing.
"There's a frustration on campus, you can see it," said George Tiger, a Haskell regent from Bristow, Okla. "Some of it's tied to what we're dealing with now, and some of it's tied to a frustration that's been going on for decades."
The federal government, he said, is content to let American Indian colleges and universities wither on the vine.
"Haskell has to fight for everything it gets," he said.
It's clear, he said, the university needs to broaden its financial base to ensure its future.
"As it is now, we are at the mercy of the federal government," he said. "But we're in a position where we, as the Haskell community, can look to people who went to Haskell and who are now tribal leaders to assist the school in terms of funding."
Most of the tribal leaders invited to the summit are Haskell alumni. Other summits may follow.
Also, Tiger said many regents had encountered alumni who have fond memories of their days at Haskell and who assume that "things are still good, that the federal government it still taking care of Haskell."
He added, "That perception needs to change."