NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – A Wall Street Journal article published on Thursday puts the University of Oklahoma as one of the top institutions for spending money like there’s no tomorrow. However, OU’s President told KFOR they’re slashing unnecessary expenses.

The University of Oklahoma recently increased their tuition by 3%. The plan includes an increase in tuition and mandatory fees for undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in Norman campus programs.

OU dad, Robert Schultz told News 4 he is roughly paying $50,000 for his first-year daughter to attend the university. That cost is for out-of-state tuition, plus room and board.

“My daughter has a scholarship that helps pay for some of that, so that is useful. It’s not cheap, but it’s a good investment,” said Schultz.

“On average, over the last five years, the top line tuition price has increased 0.9 of 1%,” added OU President, Joseph Harroz. “This is all part of a strategy to be both excellent and affordable.”

The Wall Street Journal published an article stating OU has seen a 166% increase in per-student tuition and fees since 2002.

“One of the things we said was we have to cut unnecessary costs and truly be lean. And, you know, a lot of schools make big statements about cutting ten or $20 million or $50 million, and it gets national headlines. Over the last five years, Norman campus alone, we’ve cut $143 million while increasing that need based aid by 48%, while effectively decreasing the cost for our students,” explained Harroz. “You have to do that to be competitive.”

Harroz said the legislature has funded the university well in the last few years. However, the Wall Street Journal reports the university is currently using more tuition revenue than state funding as those allocated dollars have been on a decline.

“The problem is we were in a big hole to begin with,” said Harroz. “So Norman campus’ total budget for all areas is about $1,000,000,000 on an operating basis and for a direct state appropriation, Norman campus is about 125 million.”

The Wall Street Journal references an Italian monastery OU first purchased in 2009.

The monastery was purchased with donor funds at the OU Foundation for $2.6M. Subsequent renovations totaled $11.7M, which came from the following three, non-student funded sources:

  • Donor funds: $3.7M
  • Coca-Cola Pouring Rights Agreement Funds: $3.4M
  • Corix Utility Upfront Contractual Payment: $4.6M

Harroz was not President at the time of this purchase. He said if he had the opportunity to buy a monastery in today’s time, he would not. He does believe it’s an incredible asset to have though.

“Having this campus in Arezzo is a huge asset and it leads not just to the international experience, but also the internships, which give students the opportunity to then find jobs and careers both in states across the country and in the world,” added Harroz.

Harroz told KFOR there are some projects coming up that could cost tens of millions of dollars.

“While there wasn’t yet a long term plan to replace all of the existing towers, we needed to do that. I think one of the pictures you’ve seen is of Adams Tower coming down. They made it 60, 70 years, which is a good run, but we had to replace those and so we’re making some really big capital investments which are all tied into our budget,” said Harroz.

Adams Tower will be the first to be replaced, according to Harroz. Then, the university will reevaluate other buildings.

“It’s a gorgeous school. It’s really well maintained. Even the parks and the grass are really well-maintained. The buildings are really nice. I’ve actually been very impressed,” said Schultz.

News 4 asked if tuition may be on the rise next year. He said it will be “around value” and there will be several conversations with students and families about how they plan to move forward.

“Even if there is an increase, we want to make sure of two things: it is the highest value degree you can have and that every one of the students that don’t have the economic means but do have the talent, have the ability to go here and not leave with some great debt burden,” said Harroz.

He said 55% of OU students graduate with zero debt.

Schultz told KFOR as far as he can see, he believes OU is spending their money wisely and is proud to send his daughter to the university.

“I wouldn’t let my daughter go here if I didn’t actually believe in the school, so I really do,” said Schultz.