The financial information in the editorial below can be found at GuideStar.org. Oklahoma Christian students are encouraged to sign up for free and learn about the university’s financial situation for themselves.
By Lisa Gale Pergi
Thanks to the excellent reporting of the Talon, several decisions of the Oklahoma Christian University administration have recently received press, which seems novel on this campus. And because of this press, it has become apparent the administration is hiding a big truth from its student population—an overarching, secret narrative which seeks to save the life of the institution at the expense of its precious “OC is Home” mission statement.
The murky “financial situation” of the university is not unknown, but it is far from understood. Following several revelations from the administration, it is clear this “financial situation” threatens the daily operations of the university. From the recent 15-student class size guideline and phasing out of the international business major and sports recreation programs to the failed renewal of Dr. Vogel’s tenured contract and the subsequent elimination of the forensic science program, obviously, the university has more in mind than it lets on.
The fact is, all of these changes point toward a complete overhaul of Oklahoma Christian—the likes of which may never have been seen before on this campus. In order for budgets to be balanced, Oklahoma Christian cannot be home to everyone. Majors which do not retain students will be cut to fund programs that do, and apparently, tenured faculty are not exempt from the chopping block. Any class which cannot reach the 15-student minimum is also at risk for losing its head.
According to Oklahoma Christian’s 2016 tax returns, the university takes in somewhere between $65 million and $75 million each fiscal year, with expenses in the same neighborhood. These numbers are not surprising for a large, private university where each student pays over $30,000 a year toward their degree. However, where is it all going? Even more revealing, the 2016 tax returns show Oklahoma Christian finished the fiscal year at an almost $1 million loss—$887,190 to be exact.
This is not the big truth the administration is hiding, however. These are only symptoms of the cause—a fierce fight for conventional undergraduate students and traditional Church of Christ theology Oklahoma Christian is losing.
With the stigma of technical and trade schools dropping and the general upswing in nontraditional students who seek night classes, need daycare options at their school or simply delay enrollment to work or enjoy life, the population of 17- to 18-year-old Church of Christ youth who want a marriage with their undergrad degree is shrinking.
And as the Christian Chronicle reported, the population of teenage Church of Christ students is dropping as well. According to the 2018 demographic report for Oklahoma Christian, only 50 percent of the student body claims Church of Christ affiliation, and this number will most likely drop in the next five years.
Traditional Church of Christ theology and culture, simply put, is making its way out in favor of more tolerant, less structured churches, which are not only accepting of a wider demographic but sometimes more attune with biblical exegesis.
I know for a fact I am one of the 50 percent in the statistics who identify as Church of Christ, but I attend a church I love where women regularly speak and where instruments are not banned from the premises.
Oklahoma Christian is not and cannot be home to everyone; the university would bankrupt itself by tomorrow. More cuts are coming, and this is okay. In order to survive at all, the administration of Oklahoma Christian is having to decide what this institution could be for another 50 years and what it needs to be to survive that long.
What that entails is still a mystery the entire student body and faculty are caught within. This “mystery” is the subtext to many of the news events on campus and the even more mysterious “financial situation.” We are living through a defining period. This is the big truth.