Monday, June 27, 2011

Cockroft Criticizes College Tuition Hikes

From The House Media Office ~ Rep. Josh Cockroft today criticized the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education’s decision to hike tuition rates even as the economic downturn has left many working families struggling to pay for a child’s education.

“At a time when more people need access to our colleges, the regents chose to make it harder for many students to attend,” said Cockroft, R-Tecumseh. “Furthermore, it is clear there was no compelling financial reason for the regents to take this action.”

Last week, the regents voted to increase tuition and fees at Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities. The tuition hikes included a 5 percent increase at the University of Oklahoma and a 4.8 percent increase at Oklahoma State University. Overall, tuition rates were increased between 3.2 percent and 8.3 percent at all Oklahoma public colleges.

However, Cockroft noted that a recent report by Matthew Denhart and Christopher Matgouranis found that only 40.5 percent of total expenditures at Oklahoma’s four-year public universities were for instructional needs.

“It is clear that there are many areas that could be cut to adjust to this year’s state appropriation without harming instruction or resorting to tuition increases,” Cockroft said. “Oklahoma’s colleges exist to serve the students, not the other way around. The regents need to get their priorities in order.”

As one of the youngest members of the Oklahoma Legislature, Cockroft knows better than most how challenging it is to pay for college. “I am not far removed from the time when I was looking at college opportunities and had to figure out how to pay for them,” Cockroft said. “I understand the struggles that Oklahomans will be facing because of these tuition hikes.”

On the other hand, Cockroft said many salaries in the higher education system appear outsized, including the amount paid to Chancellor Glen Johnson, making it difficult for those officials to understand the impact of their actions.

“It saddens me that the individual who recommended these significant tuition increases has no idea of the hardships ordinary Oklahomans are facing,” Cockroft said. “Chancellor Johnson makes almost $400,000 a year.”

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