Today, officials from NEO have announced that following the Oklahoma legislative budget agreement, they will receive nearly $1.5 million less than Fiscal Year 2016 appropriation to become effective on July 1, 2016. This cut will bring the total state allocation to just above $7 million, a 30% reduction from just eight years ago. Although this budget agreement is being presented as harmless to education by state leaders, that does not include higher education, which will take the largest total cut of any state agency in Oklahoma. In order to respond to the most recent of the continuing cuts to higher education, President Jeff Hale has announced measures that must be taken in order to ensure NEO is able to continue fulfilling its mission to provide excellence in learning, leadership, and service.
• NEO will eliminate 27 full-time equivalent positions. This includes 20 staff positions and 7 faculty positions. The eliminated positions make up approximately 15% of NEO’s workforce and include retrenchment, retirements, and unfilled positions.
• NEO must restructure its employee benefit plan, which will shift a portion of benefits cost to employees. This includes elimination of vision, dental, and long-term disability insurance as well as shifting a portion of medical insurance premiums to employees. Benefits changes will take effect on January 1, 2017.
• NEO will seek a 9% tuition and fee increase from the A&M Regents and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. • NEO will discontinue one academic program and two certificate programs.
• NEO will phase in scholarship reductions over the next several years.
• A portion of FY 17 operating expenses will be paid through NEO cash reserves.
“I’m very disappointed and saddened in the short-sightedness of this budget deal between the Governor and our legislative body,” said Dr. Hale. “Despite the strong support from our legislative team from Northeast Oklahoma, the budget cuts are likely to make NEO less competitive and costlier. As a border institution, NEO faces great competition for students from Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas. My concern is that we will see more and more Oklahomans choosing to go out of state for their higher education. Not to mention, it already has become apparent, it is more difficult to recruit out-of-state students into Oklahoma”
Undeterred by recent cuts, NEO will continue its tradition of appealing to private donors. NEO Development Foundation Board Chair Anna Milligan issued a response to the funding news. “The NEO Foundation stands firm in its support of the students, faculty, and staff of the college. At a time when the state legislature is measurably shrinking the budget, which disrupts programs and personnel, we urge our alums, family, and friends to contact their legislators and indicate their disapproval. The loss that is being felt is heartbreaking and we are bracing for a year where scholarships are going to play a pivotal role in a student’s opportunity to attend college. Our ultimate goal is to continue to produce successful, well-rounded college graduates.”