OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) A House committee on Monday approved a bill that could lock in tuition rates for college freshmen for four years.
The measure would allow colleges and universities to increase tuition rates only if the Legislature does not increase the appropriation to the Regents for Higher Education by at least 5 percent.
Regents got a $130 million increase last year, producing the first $1 billion budget for higher education. They are seeking an extra $171 million this year, including about $43 million just to keep pace with the increased cost of health insurance and utilities.
Rep. Lee Denny, R-Cushing, and House Speaker Lance Cargill, R-Harrah, are joint sponsors of the bill to lock in tuition rates for freshman.
The measure, which would apply only to in-state students, now goes to the full House for consideration.
"I have two children in college and I know what a sacrifice it is for middle-class families to pay high tuition rates," Denny said.
"This is a win-win proposal," she said. "It will allow families to plan ahead, it will encourage students to finish college in a timely manner and it will be one more incentive for students to stay here in Oklahoma for their college degree."
A year ago, the Legislature passed a bill to take away the authority of higher education officials to raise tuition rates and put lawmakers back in charge of those rates.
That bill was vetoed by Gov. Brad Henry, however.
Under the measure approved by the House panel, colleges and universities would be required next year to offer first-year students an opportunity to take part in guaranteed tuition plan. The plan would lock in tuition rates for an in-state student's freshman year for four continuous years.
"I want college to be accessible to as many students as possible," Cargill said.
He predicted access to quality higher education will be "the great social justice and civil rights issue of the next generation."