State to pick up $365 million education tab

Tuesday, July 15th 2008, 7:48 pm
By: News 9

By Kirsten McIntyre, NEWS 9

Twenty years ago, state lawmakers agreed to match dollar-for-dollar private money donated to the Endowed Chair Program. The program has been so successful, current lawmakers are taking steps to make sure it doesn't bankrupt the state.

Boone Pickens donated $100 million to Oklahoma State University. His gift helps the budget at OSU, but not necessarily the state.

State Regents spokesman Ben Hardcastle said after the private donation was accepted, the state's backlog for matching donations grew to $365 million.

"We've had great support through the years and here in just the last month or so," Hardcastle said. "We've seen a tremendous outpouring of support."

One possible reason for the outpouring is the June 30th deadline to get donations. In May, lawmakers passed a new law putting a moratorium on matching donations until the money was caught up. In the weeks leading up to the deadline, OU president David Boren and OSU president Burns Hargis raised about 128 million dollars.

"Until we come up with the funds to be able to pay these dollars down, it's going to be more difficult to put dollars into operational costs that have gone up at universities which makes it more difficult on universities to continue operating without raising tuition," Sen. Clark Jolley (R-Edmond) said.

The legislature approved a $100 million bond issue to help with the backlog, but with so many large donations coming in at the end, that still leaves the state needing to come up with 265 million dollars.

To make sure this doesn't happen again, the new law calls for a $5 million per year cap on the endowed chair program.