Hardhats and bottles of water in hand, the board of trustees for the University Center of Southern Oklahoma started off their regular meeting Thursday with a tour of the Health Science and Math Center being constructed at 2901 Mt. Washington Road.
The building is expected to be completed in November, according to Mark Gandy, Vice President of Miles Associates. Gandy led the tour for the group Thursday, explaining where classrooms and science labs would be located.
The University Center will begin transitioning to the new center when it is complete; however, will not be moving everything out. Trustee Cynthia Jordan said until they reach Phase II and have a steady income stream, they can’t move everything over.
Since the University Center is a building leased by Ardmore City Schools, the slower than expected transition caused some confusion. Jordan said she has discussed the issue with ACS and they were very “amicable” and understanding of the situation, but did express disappointment.
With the lease up at the end of June, a new lease will have to be drafted. Jordan said she hopes it will be a three to five year lease to give them much-needed time, but at this point it’s unclear. Chairman Gary Farabough said they may need to schedule a special meeting to discuss the lease prior to their next regular meeting in August.
The board also discussed and approved their budget for the next fiscal year. Like educational institutions across the state, they continue to deal with budget cuts.
“There’s no blue sky here. It is what it is,” Farabough said.
One of the hits the budget took this year was the state’s reimbursement for concurrent enrollment. The state used to reimburse 70 percent, but this year the number was cut in half to 35 percent, president Steve Mills said.
“We are now paying two-thirds of the cost of that concurrent enrollment,” Mills said.
Unfortunately, more often than not, the University Center does not retain those high school students when they graduate. The students tend to go to a larger university and there’s no return on all of the money waived for concurrent enrollment.
Mills said they’ve absorbed the funding cut into the next year’s budget by not paying for some other services, but it’s something they will have to address. The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education are no longer going to support high school students, he said.
An increase in tuition and fee rates for next year was also approved. Mills said if they tried to recover funding they lost, they would have had to bump it up to $4 per credit hour. However, they decided to only go up $2 per credit hour.
State regents suggested institutions not to go above 7 percent and Mills said they came in well below that.
Some other items of business included the following:
• Announcement of Vice President Cindy Pollard leaving
• Presentation of Service Award to Chariman Gary Farabough
• Oath of Office to Trustee Keith King
• Approval of election officers for next fiscal year, which remained the same
• Tabling an executive session until the August meeting regarding the employment of the President/CEO