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Amid higher ed budget woes, OK State Regents for High Ed reduce Academic Scholars Program
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YUKON, Okla.- Founded in 1988, the Academic Scholars Program provided scholarships for students with an outstanding academic record. This program would give many residents and non-resident students a chance to go to any Oklahoma college or university.

The program would feel the knife’s edge from the $6.8 million budget bill made on May 26.

On September 7, an Oklahoma Board of Regents meeting was held on the subject of funding education. Since May 26, Oklahoma has scrambled to find any additional funding for the state’s budget.

In order to bridge the gap, the Oklahoma Legislature needs a $1 billion surplus.

A 30-point agenda was given to those in attendance. Majority of the agenda pertained to degree deletions and allocating money to programs like the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).

Subject 11 left those at the meeting stunned.

The opening line for subject 11 reads, “Academic Scholars Program: Program change for 2018-19 and authorization of freshmen institutional nominees for Fall 2018.”

Three things were proposed in order to deal with the deficit: A reduction of funding for non-resident students, a reduction of nominees from 80 applicants to 40, and a reduction of scholarship awards.

Each member of the board reluctantly approved the proposal.

Board of Regents Chancellor Glen Johnson hung his head while the motion was accepted by the remainder of the board.

“Nobody likes this and I sure don’t either,” Johnson said. “We don’t have a choice. This is the consequence of a 23 percent budget cut.”

The approval of this motion will ensure that not as many students around the country will have the opportunity to come to the state for education.

With the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University being two of the top universities in the country for agriculture and engineering, this limits the educational benefits for future students.

Education is an expensive venture for the Oklahoma budget; however, an education is something that allows those living in poverty and blue collar workers to get the opportunity for a better job.

Even though the motion was approved by a forced hand, the action won’t go into action until the Spring semester for colleges across the state.

Efforts from the governor’s office and the Oklahoma Board of Regents have been made to quell the anger of the public.

The Board of Regents and Governor Mary Fallin anticipated a backlash of the budget decision back in March. At the beginning of the month, an educational task force was made by the Board of Regents to figure out how to better spend finances for education.

“We're putting everything on the table,” Chancellor Johnson said. “I see this task force as a wonderful opportunity to set the record straight, fix what needs to be fixed and move forward. I'm very supportive of it.”

Casey Garrett, 25, works as a teaching assistant in Oklahoma City Public Schools. She was heartbroken when news of the budget cuts was announced. As news breaks about the task force, she feels the same pit in her stomach.

“Of course I hope that this task force finds a leak so we can all be paid what we’re due,” Garrett said. “My fear is that they will consolidate money for what they think doesn’t mean anything. But it means something to us.”

A final gavel fell on the Oklahoma Legislative session for 2017 in May. What was left behind was a $6.8 million budget bill passed.

This bill was in response to the one billion dollar budget deficit made by the previous year.

While legislators left for their break until February of 2018, many Oklahomans were left wondering what was going to happen. Over 50 departments across the state were affected by the budget bill. One of the major institutions was education both public and higher.

Outrage over the education budget cuts rose almost immediately after the news hit the mainstream media outlets. By August, the heat of the decision had climaxed to the Oklahoma City Public School system suing the Oklahoma Legislature for negligence.

As the Oklahoma Legislature goes into special session on September 25, Oklahomans wait in anticipation as to what the lawmaker’s decisions will be.

Only time will tell the fate of Oklahoma’s education and its future budget increases or decreases.

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Brandon King

Brandon King is a journalism student at OCCC, working towards becoming a professional writer....

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