The Edmond Sun

Opinion

July 23, 2012

Suggestions for lowering tuition costs

GUTHRIE — There were some positive outcomes from this year’s legislative session. This includes the scheduled closure of two high profile state government corporate welfare funds. Closing these funds removes state government from meddling in the free market where it all too often creates unintended negative consequences.

One of these funds (known as EDGE) will be liquidated, with much of the assets ($150 million) going toward higher education endowment funds. These funds are to match private donations to the endowments. I am a proponent of moving higher education entities away from the appropriated funds model and toward a financing mechanism by which earnings from endowments are used to keep tuition from increasing. I am opposed to efforts to direct endowment earnings into areas not resulting in stabilized tuition costs.

Unfortunately, I believe all too often these funds are spent on empire building or are wasted by not driving down the cost of education. One of the first reforms to take place within higher ed should be the channeling of endowment earnings directly to cutting tuition costs whenever possible. The regents should use the EDGE money for endowments funds dedicated to lowering tuition.

The state auditor and inspector must be given the power to conduct performance audits of higher education institutions. In last week’s column, I detailed the enormous expansion in higher ed spending and indebtedness during the past 10 years. Higher education spending has grown from $2.2 billion to almost $4.1 billion. Had the expansion stayed at the rate of inflation, it would be at $2.85 billion. In response to that article, someone posted on my Facebook page questioning why those funds were not audited. Oklahoma’s performance audit laws are not conducive to frequent audits and I suspect it has been many years since there was a comprehensive performance audit of the higher education system by the state auditor, if ever.

Many of our government modernization initiatives have been based on performance-type audits. These audits almost always expose major inefficiencies and I am confident that if given the opportunity, the state auditor would provide us a report with a detailed road map to eliminate inefficiencies within the higher ed system. Without this important tool it is hard for legislators to know which savings initiatives to apply first.

I suspect one of the first recommendations would be to consolidate overhead and administration. I have heard too much anecdotal testimony from those who work at the institutions regarding the massive expansion of administrative overhead and high-paying positions within the system. We know that Oklahoma has nearly 30 higher education institutions across the state, and consolidating the administrative services of many of these institutions into a shared administration service should be a priority. Just as state agencies are set to save millions from consolidating, so should higher ed.

I also believe the report would show that many of the institutions are offering duplicative programs. These programs should take advantage of technology and distance learning to be combined across the entire state system.

Higher ed’s powerful lobbying team has been responsible for winning exemptions from government modernization reforms. If these reforms are good enough for state agencies, they should certainly apply to higher ed as well. This is especially true of the IT consolidation effort, which already accounts for a projected $30 million of savings to state agencies. Higher ed has aggressively resisted participation in this reform. I believe there are many other opportunities for participation in shared services with state agencies and other higher ed institutions.

Technology should have bent the cost curve of getting a degree just like it has driven down the cost of so many other aspects of life. However, at a time when the application of new technologies have allowed many organizations to reduce the number of FTEs, higher ed has continued to expand. Higher ed can’t hold out forever. Eventually, technology will drive down the cost curve just like it has in so many other areas of life.

Next week I will write about the future of higher education and describe how technology will break the status quo, pop the massively inflated higher education bubble and eventually collapse the cost of getting a degree.

REP. JASON MURPHEY, R-Guthrie, represents House District 31, which encompasses all of Logan County and a portion of northern Edmond. He may be reached via email at jason.murphey@okhouse.gov, on Facebook at facebook.com/JasonMurphey and Twitter.com/JWMurphey.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014

  • The pessimist’s guide to grizzly bears and Earth Day

    This coming Friday, to “celebrate Earth Day,” the Walt Disney Co. will release one of those cutesy, fun-for-all-ages, nature documentaries. “Bears” is about grizzly bears.
    The trailer says, “From DisneyNature comes a story that all parents share. About the love, the joy, the struggle and the strength it takes to raise a family.”
    Talk about your misguided “Hollywood values.” I previously have acknowledged a morbid, unreasonable fear of grizzly bears, stemming from a youth misspent reading grisly grizzly-attack articles in Readers Digest. This fear is only morbid and unreasonable because I live about 1,500 miles from the nearest wild grizzly bear. Still. ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Digging out of the CIA-Senate quagmire

    Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted to declassify parts of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The White House, the CIA and the Senate still have to negotiate which portions of the report will be redacted before it is made public. But this is an important step in resolving the ugly dispute that has erupted between the intelligence committee and the intelligence agency.
    The dispute presents two very serious questions. Was the program consistent with American values and did it produce valuable intelligence? And is effective congressional oversight of secret activities possible in our democracy?

    April 15, 2014

  • Los Angeles Times: Congress extend jobless benefits again

    How’s this for irony: Having allowed federal unemployment benefits to run out in December, some lawmakers are balking at a bill to renew them retroactively because it might be hard to figure out who should receive them. Congress made this task far harder than it should have been, but the technical challenges aren’t insurmountable. Lawmakers should restore the benefits now and leave them in place until the unemployment rate reaches a more reasonable level.

    April 14, 2014

  • Many nations invested in Israel

    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger recently spoke to a gathering at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning in Oklahoma City. The event began with a presentation by Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, who told the attendee that the  upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover was an occasion for them to embrace the children of God, which is all of humanity.

    April 14, 2014

  • Coming soon: More ways to get to know your doctor

    Last week, the federal government released a massive database capable of providing patients with much more information about their doctors.
    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that runs Medicare, is posting on its website detailed information about how many visits and procedures individual health professionals billed the program for in 2012, and how much they were paid.
    This new trove of data, which covers 880,000 health professionals, adds to a growing body of information available to patients who don’t want to leave choosing a doctor to chance. But to put that information to good use, consumers need to be aware of what is available, what’s missing and how to interpret it.

    April 14, 2014

  • HEY HINK: Hateful bullies attempt to muffle free speech

    Hopefully we agree it should be a fundamental right to voice criticism of any religion you wish. And you should have the right to sing the praises of any religion you choose. If criticism of religion is unjust, feel free to make your best argument to prove it. If criticism is just, don’t be afraid to acknowledge and embrace it. If songs of praise are merited, feel free to join in. If not, feel free to ignore them. But no American should participate in curbing free speech just because expression of religious views makes someone uncomfortable.

    April 11, 2014

  • Putting Oklahoma parents in charge

    Oklahoma’s public schools serve many children very well. Still, for various reasons, some students’ needs are better met in private schools, in virtual schools or elsewhere. That is why two state lawmakers have introduced legislation to give parents debit cards, literally, to shop for the educational services that work best for their children.

    April 11, 2014

  • Israelis, Palestinians are losing their chance

    Developments in the Middle East suggest that prospects of success for the Israeli-Palestinian talks, to which Secretary of State John Kerry has devoted countless hours and trips, are weakening.

    April 11, 2014

  • Teens might trade naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 11, 2014

Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

Agree
Disagree
Undecided
     View Results