Education costs likely to get Oklahoma legislators' attention

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: November 4, 2011

HIGHER education isn't cheap. Just ask the family of any college student or a graduate who stares down a student loan bill every month. And the economy is no help.

A recent report from College Board shows that in-state tuition and fees at public four-year schools across the country went up by more than $1,000 for this school year, a 5.7 percent increase from a year ago. Tuition and fees at private nonprofit schools increased at a slightly lower rate.

The report acknowledges that dramatic increases in tuition and fees at California schools impact the national picture. But other states haven't been immune to economic pressures that have pinched students. As colleges face increasing costs in areas like health care and infrastructure, they offset losses in state funding with higher tuition and fees.

Oklahoma has long been home to some of the country's most affordable colleges and universities, and still is. Yet we expect lawmakers will face considerable pressure this year to take a much more critical look at higher education's finances.

Rep. Cory Holland, R-Marlow, has said he is concerned about legislative oversight of higher ed spending, particularly questioning the six-figure salaries of university employees without many teaching responsibilities. When the Legislature convenes next year, Holland won't be the only one asking tough questions.

The reality is every function of state government faces extra scrutiny when money is tight. That's especially true in education, which makes up the majority of the state's budget. Higher education is critically important to Oklahoma's overall well-being and its future. It still doesn't get a pass. Nor should it.

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