By Loné Beasley
Oklahoma State Senators approved a bill Monday that area legislators and East Central University officials are working hard to stop before it reaches the governor’s desk.
House Bill 1227 purports to merge the existing Ardmore Higher Education center into a four-year branch campus of Southeastern Oklahoma State University (SOSU). Sen. Josh Brecheen, Senate co-author of the measure, says the move will save the university system money.
“Consolidating these campuses should result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual state savings just as happened when the Idabel center merged with SOSU,” said Brecheen said in a press release.
Rep. Todd Thomsen, who refers to the legislation as something of a hostile takeover, said there is no evidence to back up such an assertion. “They cannot get a report from the Regents of Higher Education to validate their argument,” Thomsen said. “I’m not sure where they pull that number out of. I made an effort to contact the RUSO (Regional University System of Oklahoma) Board and ask them on the specific (financial information) to the Idabel campus. I was told by Southeastern’s president that they aren’t able to distinguish (those numbers).”
Thomsen said he thinks of the bill as a hostile takeover because SOSU’s fewer number of students at the Ardmore campus makes it a minority player compared to the number of East Central University students taking classes there.
In 2007 East Central University made a proposal that was accepted by the Ardmore campus board to become a branch of ECU. The measure was doomed in the State House when legislators determined funding was not available to move the process forward.
ECU officials say they were never contacted when this new move started to make the Ardmore campus a branch of Southeastern and have been largely left out of the discussion.
Thomsen said the measure will now make its way back to the house, is on that body’s calendar today, and will likely come up for a vote on Thursday. If someone objects, which Thomsen plans to do, it will be sent to conference committee for review and additional discussion.