- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The cost of attending one of Oklahoma’s 25 public colleges and universities will go up by an average of 8.4 percent, the state regents voted Thursday.

The tuition and fee hikes follow the Legislature’s decision to slash funding to the state’s colleges and universities by nearly 16 percent this year as part of an effort to close a $1.3 billion hole in the budget for the fiscal year that begins Friday.

“It will have a negative impact on the academic mission in higher education, certainly on our students,” said Glen Johnson, Oklahoma’s chancellor of higher education.

The average full-time college student in Oklahoma will pay about $417 more per year, according to an analysis by the regents. The tuition and mandatory fee hikes for undergraduate students ranged from 3.7 percent at Langston University to about 13 percent at Rose State College.

“There’s just almost no way for me to be able to get my degree at this point,” said 23-year-old University of Oklahoma student Eliott Kahn, an architecture major from Dallas.

Kahn, who already works between 25 and 40 hours a week at a construction company, picked up a second job at a bagel shop, and said he’s thinking about giving up university altogether.

“I’m already going to be leaving with more than $100,000 in debt, and I’ve still got a couple more years to finish an architecture degree,” Kahn said. “I can’t continue to kill myself like this. I’m going 19, 20 hours a day and sleeping four hours a night.”

Still, Johnson said, when it comes to student-debt load, Oklahoma ranks among the lowest in the nation.

“Half of our students don’t have student debt when they leave,” Johnson said. “The ones that do are 30 percent below the national average.”

For students at OU, the average undergraduate resident will pay about 7 percent more, or $565 per year, while the average nonresident student will see a hike of about $1,500. At Oklahoma State University, the 7 percent increase amounts to $543 a year for resident undergraduates and $1,465 for nonresident undergraduates.

While the cuts to higher education institutions totaled about $136 million, the tuition and fee increases will only generate about $87 million, forcing institutions to make up the difference by eliminating faculty and staff positions and tapping into reserve funds, among other things, said Amanda Paliotta, the regents’ director of budget and finance.

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Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy

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