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Oklahoma Regents request almost $100 million budget increase in effort to increase workforce readiness

Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Okla.
Southwestern Oklahoma State University
Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Okla.

Oklahoma’s Regents for Higher Education are asking the legislature to up funding for the state’s public colleges and universities.

The regents make an annual wish list that usually includes a budget increase before the legislative session.

Now, they’re asking for a $96 million hike to take overall funding up to $986 million.

"Our primary objective is to produce more college graduates to address Oklahoma’s evolving workforce demands," Chancellor Allison D. Garrett said in a news release.

The budget request includes funding for expanding concurrent enrollment, teacher education scholarships amid the state’s teacher shortage and other workforce initiatives.

Across the country, as states disburse less money to schools, the cost of a college education is being shifted to students, in the form of tuition and fees. Almost half of Oklahoma’s college graduates finish school with debt.

The figure would still be a far cry from 2016, when colleges got closer to a billion dollars from the legislature.

Cuts have hit Oklahoma’s higher education institutions hard since the 2008 recession, but as the state socked billions of dollars away in savings accounts they did get an increase from the legislature worth tens of millions or about 7.5%. The current budget of $880.9 million is 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.

It remains to be seen what the legislature will do with the request. Lawmakers did increase higher education funding in the last session, though not as much as initially requested.

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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