TCC President Thinks Economy Was Factor In Vote

Wednesday, May 14th 2008, 6:42 pm
By: News On 6

High gas prices and grocery bills are two factors in pocketbook pain may have trumped Tulsa Community College's big plans for growth.  On Tuesday, Tulsa County voters rejected a $76 million bond issue for TCC.  The News On 6's Jeffrey Smith reports school administrators feel the decision from voters is a catch 22.

They say the economy led to the vote, but those same economic problems are fueling enrollment increases.  And now, some faculty members are speaking out.

TCC asked voters to approve a bond-and-millage increase on Tuesday.  And, for the first time in the school's 40 year history, Tulsa County voters said no.

"It makes me sad. There were only 115 people that voted where I voted yesterday," said TCC instructor Kasty France.

"Gas prices, and high food prices that people were experiencing, I think, factored in a large way," said TCC President Tom McKeon.

The school's president says that since the election was called 60 days ago, gas prices have jumped 50 cents a gallon.

"Our southeast campus is over capacity right now, and we wanted to expand medical programs at the metro campus.  And, we won't be able to expand those programs because we needed the additional space to do that," said TCC President Tom McKeon.

TCC basically has to preserve the status-quo. No new degrees, no new classrooms, no expanded campuses. But, because money's so tight, the school will examine the possibility of cutting some programs including Tulsa Achieve, which right now provides tuition-reduced or tuition-free rates for Tulsa County students.

"It makes for a really diverse classroom, and it's exciting that people that wouldn't normally be here are here.  We had 1,200 students that weren't here last year, here this year, because of Tulsa Achieves," said TCC instructor Kasty France.

Administrators say the program's safe for now, but the fact is they need more space.

"It would've made things a lot better for students.  We woulda had more resources and better classrooms," said TCC student Brian Hixson.

Students say they understand why enrollment's expected to grow by 25%.

"Not as many people are going to be able to go off to OU, OSU, and all that. They can't afford it," said TCC student Brian Hixson.

"It would be great to think that anybody that could go to college was. That would be just an incredible thing for Tulsa, and for Oklahoma," said TCC instructor Kasty France.

The bond and the millage votes were put on the same ballot.  President McKeon says they might put the millage proposal before the voters again in a few months.