NORMAN, Okla. - The classes at OU can be challenging for sophomore Sarah Smith - almost as challenging as paying for them.
"It’s pretty difficult," she said. "School tuition is a beast. It’s pretty stressful to come up with ways, like ‘Where am I going to come up with this money?’"
And, Smith was asking those questions before she found out she was going to be paying more for her last three years of school.
Near the end of June, OU's Board of Regents voted to increase tuition and fees 7 percent.
Then, Thursday, the State Regents approved increases at all of Oklahoma's public colleges and universities, averaging 8.4 percent.
In a statement, President David Boren said the raise was a tough but necessary decision.
“We have made these savings in order to keep tuition increases to a bare minimum and to keep OU ranked among the lowest cost institutions, nationally and in the Big 12,” he said. “However, it is clear that we cannot continue to achieve excellence in the future without state financing playing a greater role."
Boren and other educators blame declining state funding for the increases.
At OU, Boren said state funding now only makes up 12 percent of the formula, as opposed to 32 percent 20 years ago.
The State Regents said the decision is not one it takes lightly.
"Even with the personnel cuts and cost-saving measures the institutions have implemented, it would not be possible to maintain essential student support services without also generating additional income through tuition and fees," said Northern Oklahoma College President Cheryl Evans, in a statement. "For many campuses, projected revenue from tuition increases only replaces about one-third of the state funding cuts from operational budgets."
But, still, students like senior Tyler Minton can't help but feel the squeeze ahead of next year's increase.
"It makes me concerned about my ability not only to pay for school but to pay for the things that keep me alive: Rent, medicine, gas, electric," he said. "I just wish they didn’t pass the buck off to the students. If nothing else, it feels like a little slap in the face."