Monday, October 08, 2018

OCPA column: New OU president is a breath of fresh air


A breath of fresh air
By Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA)

Oklahoma higher education is a notorious devourer of cash. That’s why new University of Oklahoma President Jim Gallogly is such a breath of fresh air.

Gallogly is a shock to the system because he’s putting students and taxpayers first. He’s proposing that an academic institution with a $2.12 billion annual budget should be efficient, accountable, and focused on education.

Gallogly’s emphasis on education is clear from remarks delivered during a recent Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce event. “There are so many window-dressing things that people do,” he said. “I'm interested in graduation rates. Frankly, we're going to do a lot better job than we've done in the past on that.” Only 40 percent of OU students graduate in four years.

Gallogly isn’t afraid to go over the budget line by line. “I’ve asked about our study-abroad programs just like I have every other part of our institution,” he said. “If you’re a petroleum engineer, maybe it doesn’t make sense to send you to Brazil.”

“I’m trying to make sure that OU stays affordable,” he said, “and so I’m going to ask some of those hard questions.”

In business, serving customers is the path to success. So, it’s no surprise that Gallogly, a successful businessman, is focused on students and their success. One result of his work so far is that tuition stayed flat this fall.

Gallogly also respects taxpayers by focusing on inefficiencies. He rightly questioned OU’s two new luxury dorms that have just 63 percent occupancy. That brings a net annual loss of $2.3 million, but even if full, they would still lose a million dollars annually.

Gallogly’s approach is refreshing: look for savings instead of accusing lawmakers and taxpayers of being stingy and then demanding more money. “I’ve been very open to say that strategy of constantly complaining is not working, that we have to be a partner for the state and bring them opportunities for investment,” Gallogly told the Tulsa World.

To date, Gallogly has identified some $20.6 million in savings, with more ahead. He is fulfilling his promises, and he is offering an example worthy of emulation.

He is also striking fear in the failed status quo by proposing common-sense budgeting solutions that don’t rely on demanding more from taxpayers or more tuition dollars and debt from families, students, and the federal government.

Oklahoma families and taxpayers should be thankful for and supportive of Gallogly’s efforts to rein in out-of-control spending in higher education.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

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