March 7, 2011
Wesley Burt

Oklahoma voters in favor of making changes to higher education administration

A recent study conducted by SoonerPoll found that a majority of Oklahoma's likely voters would prefer the state's public universities to cut spending if less revenue is available.

The survey asked respondents to choose between the following options in the event of a revenue shortage: raise tuition; increase class size; delay new facilities; freeze faculty pay; reduce administrative overhead; require professors to teach more students and do less research; or raise taxes.

'Reduce administrative overhead' was the top response with support from 37.8 percent of respondents, followed by 'delay new facilities' with 12.8 percent. 'Freeze faculty pay,' the survey's other cut spending oriented response, was chosen by 8.9 percent of respondents, bringing the cut spending category total to a 59.5 percent majority.

'Raise tuition' and 'raise taxes' were the two responses with the least support with 5.5 and 4.5 percent respectively.

"Taxpayers are wise to want to reduce administrative overhead," said Brandon Dutcher, vice president for policy at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. "A recent report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, for example, found that in the five-year period ending in 2008, the University of Oklahoma more than doubled its spending on administration.", Oklahoma's public opinion pollster, was commissioned for this poll by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. conducted the scientific study using live interviewers by telephone of 508 likely voters from Jan. 24 - Feb. 3. The study has a margin of error of ±4.35 percent.

The study found that when respondents were asked which option they next most prefer the three spending cut options remain the most appealing. 'Delay new facilities' was the most popular second preference with 23.7 percent, followed by 'reduce administrative overhead' and 'freeze faculty pay' with 20.5 and 14.2 percent respectively.

'Raise tuition' and 'raise taxes' remain the lowest preferences.

The survey also asked respondents to agree or disagree with the statement, "Public colleges and universities in Oklahoma can be run more efficiently." Results showed that 81.3 percent of respondents agreed, 57.9 percent strongly and 23.4 percent somewhat. Only 6.3 percent disagreed while 12.4 percent remain undecided.

Richard A. Burpee, a retired Air Force general who also served as a vice president at the University of Central Oklahoma for four years, said there is definitely room for increased efficiencies in higher education. "We need to take a hard look at how much teaching professors actually do," Burpee said.

Respondents were also asked to agree or disagree with this statement: "Professors should be paid based on how much teaching they do, especially how many students they teach."
A 63.4 percent majority agreed with the statement, 38.8 percent strongly agreed while 24.6 percent somewhat agreed. Only 24.8 percent disagreed, while 11.8 remained.

Similarly, with 9.1 percent of respondents in favor, 'require professors to teach more students and do less research' was the third most popular response to what public universities should do in the event of a budget crisis.

"It's not fair to parents to send kids to college only to have them be taught by teaching assistants," Dutcher said. "We should demand that more professors follow the example of University of Oklahoma historian Dr. J. Rufus Fears and actually teach large numbers of students. Taxpayers deserve no less."

Wesley Burt
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Wesley Burt