I‘m Sooner born and Sooner bred, and when I die, I’ll be Sooner dead.

I grew up singing those words and believing them, and as an avid OU fan who’s spent her life loving the University of Oklahoma, going through the Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts programs there and teaching there, I know I will continue to live those words for the rest of my Sooner life.

That campus is like a beloved childhood home to me, and I still dream of finding some way to go back. All I from: http://www.gradprofiles.com/images/uoklahom.gifhave to do to get that familiar homesick feeling is to drive down Boyd and look at those beautiful red brick buildings, the fabulous statues and the amazing landscaping that adorn the campus, and I’m pulled right back in. You can practically smell the learning going on there. It’s as vibrant and alive as any learning institution can be.

Attending the University of Oklahoma is the dream of many young Oklahomans. If you’re an Okie, you’re most likely either aligned with OU or with OSU (Oklahoma State University). The rivalry is serious — so serious in fact that even the youngest among us choose one school or another, often before they’ve even stopped sucking their thumbs. Cut them, and they bleed crimson and cream or orange. The loyalties are that fierce.

How sad it is, then, that OU’s frequent tuition rate hikes are making the school an impossible dream for many Oklahoma citizens. In 2004-2005, they raised tuition rates by 10.7%. In 2007-2008, they added another 9.7% to tuition and now they are proposing a 9.9% tuition rate hike for 2008-2009. That’s an astounding 30.3% in a matter of four to five years.

What these hikes have created is a situation where only the richest and the poorest among us can afford to attend. Current in-state tuition for 30 hours at OU is $5,607 — not counting books, supplies and living expenses. The proposed rate hike will raise that amount to $6162 a semester or $12,324 a year. The very poor can get federal and state grants to attend the school. The very rich can just write a check. But the greatest majority of us — those who fit in the middle class bracket — can no longer afford to send our children to school there. The financial burden has just become too great. With books and supplies easily adding another $3,000 a year to the cost of attending OU, even middle class students who coninue to live at home have a nearly impossible chance of being able to get a four year degree there. Most middle class parents and/or students can’t afford to foot a $60,000 bill.

I know there’s another side to the story. University of Oklahoma president, David Boren, says the hike is necessary to make up for a shortfall created when the state legislature didn’t appropriate additional money to higher educaton this year. OU will have $20.5 million more in costs for the upcoming school year, Boren said, even as the university has to deal with $3 million in budget reductions. The increases in costs are in areas such as new faculty, tuition waivers, 2 percent raises for faculty and staff, building maintenance and health care costs. (AP)

That begs the question, though, why not just cut the fat rather than put the burden on students who can ill afford such exhorbitant tuition? A business, faced with a shortfall, would have made cuts to their programs; why not OU? It’s just sad that Boren and his staff would rather blame the legislature for their own out of control, pie in the sky spending.

If the University of Oklahoma is going to remain the powerhouse that it is today, something is going to have to change, or it won’t have enough students to support it. OU means a great deal to the citizens of Oklahoma, Mr. Boren. Please, find a way for it to be an educational dream come true for our Oklahoma youth, rather than a financial nightmare. I know you can do it. You are, after all, Sooner born and bred. Try not to forget that sitting up there in your ivory tower, or it’s likely to topple as the school falls into financial ruin.