DALLAS -Tulsa Community College would meet Oklahoma's growing demand for technical and medical education with proceeds from a $76 million general obligation bond proposal going to voters on May 13.
The two-year state school is also asking voters to approve an increase in the college district's property tax rate of 1.7 mills to a total of 8.7 mills. The increase would generate an additional $7.9 million a year. The college's property tax, which is levied in Tulsa County, currently brings in $32.9 million a year, or about a third of the school's annual revenue.
The school's bonds have an underlying rating of A2 from Moody's Investors Service. No other agency provides an unenhanced rating for Tulsa Community College.
Voters approved a 10-year, $11 million bond issue in 1989 and a 10-year, $18.3 million issue in 1999. The 2008 bonds would mature over seven years.
Proceeds from the bonds will be used to add, expand, and renovate classroom space for new and existing programs at all four campuses, and for a $10 million computer lab and student support center. The school also will spend $16 million of the proceeds to build a new academic center, which will be smaller than the existing campuses, in the Tulsa suburb of Owasso.
Additional space is needed to accommodate new programs and a growing enrollment, said Lauren Brookey, the school's vice president for external affairs.
"Our enrollment has grown 18% since 1999, the last time we asked voters for a bond issue," she said. "Demand for many of our programs, but especially nursing and allied health professions, is high and we need more academic space to meet that demand."
The school had the equivalent of 7,685 full-time students in 1999, but enrolled the equivalent of 9,099 students for the fall 2007 semester, she said. The school, which was established in 1970 as Tulsa Junior College, is the largest two-year college in Oklahoma.
"That's not our actual head count," Brookey said. "We're really serving about 17,000 students a semester."
The additional space will allow the school to offer a degree in cardiovascular technology for the first time in Oklahoma, she said. Students seeking that certification currently must obtain it out of state.
"We'll also be adding some academic classes requested by the local community, including management and entrepreneurial programs," she said. "While we're seeing increased interest in technical and workforce education, we're also experiencing growth in the number of transitional students who will be going on to a four-year school."
Both the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University operate branch campuses in Tulsa, Brookey said, but neither offer freshman and sophomore level classes.
"We have an exclusive right in Tulsa to the first two years of college classes," she said. "Tulsa Community College is a very, very affordable point of access to a college education."
Allocations from the bond proceeds include $13.5 million for a facility for fire and emergency services, first-responder training, and homeland security programs. The city of Tulsa also is contributing money for the training center.
The allocations include $21.6 million for additional projects and cost overruns on the construction work.
"Under state law, we must explain to voters how we will spend 70% of the bond money," she said. "We obviously cannot anticipate exactly our needs over the next seven years, so this contingency fund allows us to add projects as well as account for unanticipated construction costs."