Gov. Fallin vetoes plan for SOSU branch campus in Ardmore
Gov. Mary Fallin says the idea for converting the Ardmore Higher Education Center into a branch campus of Southeastern Oklahoma State University lacks sustainable, long-term funding.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Oklahoman 0 Published: April 30, 2011
Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a bill Friday that would have converted the Ardmore Higher Education Center into a branch campus of Southeastern Oklahoma State University. More Info ONLINE Read more news from the state Capitol. Newsok.com/ politics
The governor said she supports expanding opportunities for higher education in Ardmore, but House Bill 1227 needs a more comprehensive plan for sustainable funding. "Supporting access to higher education is an important goal and something that I am committed to doing,” Fallin said. "Unfortunately, House Bill 1227, while well-intentioned, is flawed. "The bill’s intent is to create and maintain a new college campus with funds from local government and private contributions; however, it is doubtful that such a campus can be sustained in the long run without significant state support,” Fallin said. "In other words, the people of Oklahoma will most likely be asked to foot the bill for this project. "With no estimates on what that might cost the state of Oklahoma, and with the state still struggling to find its way out of a $500 million budget shortfall, I do not believe it would be appropriate to proceed,” Fallin said. The governor said she will work with Ardmore officials and legislators to explore other alternatives. Rep. Pat Ownbey, author of the measure, said he wanted to go over his options, which include a possible override of Fallin’s veto. The measure passed 34-12 in the Senate and 63-30 in the House; 32 votes are needed in the Senate for an override and 68 are needed in the House. "It is disappointing,” said Ownbey, R-Ardmore. "We’ve done a lot of the work on the bill and spent a lot of time working with a lot of different people. But as disappointed as I am, I’m more disappointed for the people of southern Oklahoma. Southern Oklahoma people are the real losers in this deal.” The House of Representatives last week passed the plan, although several lawmakers said they were concerned that East Central University, which is offering courses in Ardmore, was left out of talks that resulted in Southeastern taking over the university center and developing a branch campus. Others during the two-hour discussion said they didn’t like being told earlier both in a committee meeting and on the House floor that HB 1227 would be simply a name change for the Ardmore Higher Education Center. Changes making the center a branch campus of Southeastern were added in the Senate. Rep. Todd Thomsen, R-Ada, said during floor debate last week that East Central, which offers nursing classes in Ardmore, was not included in discussions. The Ardmore center’s board four years ago favored East Central to develop the center into a branch campus; legislation accomplishing that was offered in 2008 but it died because it couldn’t get funding. Ownbey said he didn’t expect Southeastern, based in Durant, would need extra money to convert the campus over a three-year period into a branch campus. Many of the programs offered by other universities at the center wouldn’t be affected, he said. Southeastern was chosen because its service map best covers the Ardmore area, he said. Four universities — Southeastern, East Central, Murray State College and Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City — offer courses at the Ardmore center, the first of its kind when it was created in 1974. Four other centers created — in Tulsa, Enid, Muskogee and Idabel — have all been converted into branch campuses.