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Oklahoma legislature budget proposal includes significant increase for higher education

Spring flowers bloom outside the Oklahoma State Capitol.
Sue Ogrocki
Spring flowers bloom outside the Oklahoma State Capitol.

Oklahoma lawmakers released their $9.8 billion budget proposal late Monday

Some top level highlights include:

  • $181 million to pay for checks worth $75 for each individual tax filer and $150 for joint filers.
  • A $700 million fund set aside for an economic  development project in Pryor.
  • Millions of dollars for employee pay raises for state troopers, Oklahoma Health Department workers and park rangers.

One of the big ticket items - as it is every year - is education. The legislature has allocated more than $4 billion to fund both K-12 and higher ed.

Common ed is seeing a modest increase of .5% or roughly $17 million.None of that new money will go through the state aid formula for day-to-day operations.

Colleges and universities will see a much more significant increase in funding, though common education’s budget is about three times higher. The higher education increase is about 7.5%, worth tens of millions of dollars to bring its annual allocation up to $873 million. That’s the highest total since 2016.

Oklahoma hasconsistently lagged behind the country in education funding after the 2008 recession. As colleges across the country saw an increase in state funds, Oklahoma lawmakers continued to cut the state’s higher education budget.

Between 2015 and 2020, higher education funding from states rose by on average 18.8% which represents $15.3 billion total. In Oklahoma, funding fell 18.6% or $195 million, according to theGrapevine Survey, conducted by Illinois State University. The survey measures state support of colleges and universities nationwide.

Oklahoma was one of only five states to see a decrease in that period.

Cuts shift costs of higher education onto students and that has led to tuition and fee growth that outpaces the rate of inflation nationwide.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Robby Korth grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Nebraska with a journalism degree.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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