More than three months ago, I said incoming University of Oklahoma President Jim Gallogly was a terrific hire. Since then, Gallogly has focused on the core work of a university, showing a relentless dedication to what’s best for students and their families.
Presiding over his first meeting of the OU Board of Regents, Gallogly sent a clear message that he is serious about imposing fiscal discipline, prioritizing spending, slowing the debt-fueled building spree that coincides with a Standard and Poor’s downgrade, and protecting students from tuition hikes.
“We will get our house in order,” Gallogly said.
“Gallogly said OU is in nearly $1 billion worth of debt and that expenses have grown at a rate of nearly $36 million faster than revenues over the last five years,” OU Daily editor-in-chief Nick Hazelrigg reported.
“I consider myself a financial expert, and it’s taken me days and weeks and months to sort it all,” the OU Daily quoted Gallogly as saying. “But I do feel that we have a very good grasp of where we’re at today, and frankly, I’m not pleased with what I found. In the last five years, our operating revenues are up 18.8 percent. Unfortunately, our operating expenses are up more: 23.3 percent.”
To his great credit, Gallogly will not punish students for the mismanagement of the grown-ups. “Frankly,” the OU Daily quotes Gallogly as saying, “our inefficiencies on the Norman campus and our overspending on the Norman campus should not fall on our students.”
This perspective is refreshing. Given the fast-changing world, OU will benefit from this excellent private-sector hire. It is no wonder that University of Oklahoma Board of Regents chairman Clay Bennett says he is “thrilled” to have Gallogly at the helm. Certainly, Gallogly’s fiscal prudence and awareness will come in handy as he navigates the choppy budgetary waters of Oklahoma’s largest higher-learning institution.
According to OU’s financial statements, total annual tuition and fee revenue increased by more than $151 million to a total of $292 million from fiscal year 2007 to fiscal year 2016.
Dr. Richard Vedder, who helps compile the college rankings for Forbes, estimated in 2014 that the top 20 percent of OU professors by teaching load taught 60 percent of the total. If the rest of the faculty could match this productivity, it would save more than $99 million annually.
The opportunities exist at OU to pay performing professors better, empower students, and not increase costs. Gallogly deserves our praise for his outstanding leadership.
Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (www.ocpathink.org).