Working together

Kansas higher education officials might take note of the University of Oklahoma president’s strategy for improving state funding.

June 30, 2011


The conversation about higher education funding in Oklahoma seems to have a different tone than it has in Kansas.

After the regents at the University of Oklahoma approved a 5 percent tuition increase at the school last week, the Associated Press reported comments by OU President David Boren. Like most university leaders, Boren said his school had done its best to avoid tuition increases, but after absorbing about $80 million in fixed-costs increases in the last three years, “it’s just impossible to do something with nothing.”

However, rather than point fingers at state lawmakers for the school’s funding woes, as many in Kansas have done, Boren took a different tack. He thanked Gov. Mary Fallin and Republican leaders in the state legislature for their concern and for having an “open door” to listen to his request for more funding.

Then, he went a step further. “I know that as the economy continues to recover, they’ll do all that they can to help us sort of dig back out of the hole,” Boren said, “and hopefully over the next couple of years get back to not where we would like to be but just get back to where we were in 2008 because we’re a long way from where we were at that time.”

It is, perhaps, useful to note that Boren is well acquainted with the politics of government funding. Before he became OU president, he served as a state legislator, Oklahoma’s governor and a U.S. senator. Apparently, he believes spreading some sugar is the best way to attract more support for additional state funding.

It is also important to note that OU and Oklahoma State University still will have the lowest tuition rates in the Big 12 Conference. Even with the 5 percent increase, Oklahoma students will pay $7,124 per year to attend OU, compared to the $8,364 Kansas freshmen entering KU this fall will pay as part of their tuition “compact.” KU officials often say their school continues to be a bargain compared to its peers, but Oklahoma apparently is an even greater bargain.

Public universities across the country are hurting, but Boren’s strategy for dealing with state lawmakers is interesting. It’s hard to know whether the gratitude he expresses to state legislators and his confidence that they will step up with increased funding in the future are completely sincere or more of a tactic to win political favor.

It seems clear, however, that higher education leaders and state lawmakers working as a team is the best way to improve funding and reduce tuition increases. It’s a relationship that both higher education and legislative leaders in Kansas should try to cultivate.


question4u 6 years, 12 months ago

“'I know that as the economy continues to recover, they’ll do all that they can to help us sort of dig back out of the hole,” Boren said.'"

If he believes that, then of course he has a reason not to "point fingers." But does anyone have any reason to believe anything similar about the Kansas Legislature? It would be interesting to hear whether there have been any legislators who have actually said that they would "do all that they can" to restore funding when that becomes possible. Unless there is some indication that they would, any president of a university in Kansas would just look foolish saying that he or she believes that the legislature will help them "dig back out of the hole", especially since proposals were made in the Legislature to make cuts to universities effectively permanent by directing all future surpluses in the budget to cutting taxes, not to restoring programs. On what planet does that help dig universities out of a hole?

"Apparently, he believes spreading some sugar is the best way to attract more support for additional state funding."

Are state legislators really that vain in Oklahoma? Do they really make funding decisions based on what a university president might say to flatter them or offend them instead of considering the benefits of investment in higher education and, most important, the good of the students of Oklahoma?

What a president says or doesn't say about the legislature 's likelihood of restoring funding shouldn't have anything to do with the decisions that legislators make, unless those legislators are petty, shallow and easily swayed by flattery or perceived insults. The suggestion that such a strategy might work in Kansas entails a definite opinion about the integrity of the Kansas Legislature. Is it really that bad?

Phillbert 6 years, 12 months ago

This is the same delusional thinking that Dolph had in his Saturday Column - that if the Regents say "Pretty, pretty please" the Republicans the LJW told everyone to vote for will suddenly decide to raise taxes so they could spend more. Get real.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 12 months ago

Apparently Dolph thinks that the only "conversations" between university officials and state legislators are statements and press releases given to reporters.

Scott Drummond 6 years, 12 months ago

Kansas should emulate Oklahoma, huh?

I don't know of a single person of intelligence who thinks that.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 12 months ago

And that has what to do with state legislators and Oklahoma?

Cai 6 years, 12 months ago

Mars candy didn't pick Topeka over Lawrence based on intelligence.

They picked Topeka over Lawrence based on MONEY. Pure and simple. They picked Topeka because Topeka has the space and the infrastructure to support what they wanted. Lawrence doesn't. None of that has anything to do with intelligence.

Straight up, Oklahoma government has a far better relationship with OK universities than Kansas government does with KS universities. The reasons for that are many, but one of them is because the OK government at least puts more lip service into valuing education, and the OK universities seem to keep a more positive dialog going.

Is that the best way? I'm not in a position to judge - I don't have enough facts, and I don't know for sure that the better relationship leads to more actual funding. But if you're going to put an argument to paper at least make sure it consistently logical.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 12 months ago

Let's see...you've just written:

"It's been reported that state and local governments have more than $2.8 trillion of outstanding debt..."

"our national debt is more than $14.3 trillion."

"The Fed already holds more than $1 trillion dollars of U.S. treasuries - €”that's more than 70% of all outstanding debt"

Uh...you get "more than 70% of all outstanding debt" out of any combination of these figures...how???? Or is this just another one of those "the figure was not meant to be factual" arguments?

P Allen Macfarlane 6 years, 12 months ago

I think we all get your point: THe world is changing politically and economically all around us.

The government spent much of the last half of the 20th century subsidizing oil among other commodities. Note for example, that the price of a gallon of gas in the US was about the same as what would be charged for a liter of gas in most countries of the world all through the 1960s through the 1990s! Those subsidies combined with very low tax rates in comparison to other countries have given us a false picture of what it costs to maintain our resource-intensive and expensive way of life here in the US.

Globalization of the economy will eventually force us to face new realities: we are under taxed for the services we would like government to provide us with as a society. It's time Americans woke up to that fact.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 12 months ago

Is there some reason you decided to cut-and-paste a sales pitch for some guy's "step-by-step compound trading plan"???

woodlawn 6 years, 12 months ago

Perhaps the publisher of the local paper in Norman, OK is supportive of the home school. Helps.

somedude20 6 years, 12 months ago

Kansas has many faults as does Lawrence however, I would gladly pay the extra $1240 a semester to NOT have to live in Oklahoma.

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