As Oklahoma colleges and universities begin the home stretch of the spring semester, we can all be proud that there are nearly 200,000 students on the state's 25 public higher education campuses working hard to earn a degree that will bring value to the individual and society. To compete and prosper, our state and our country need college graduates more than ever.
Beyond the benefits to the individual (according to one study, college graduates earn 75 percent more than high school grads), as Chancellor Glen Johnson wrote recently, Oklahoma benefits from a better-educated workforce and our communities benefit from increased civic involvement, lower crime rates, and enhanced giving and volunteerism.
We applaud Gov. Mary Fallin and the Legislature for their commitment to higher education. Thanks to Oklahoma taxpayers, an education at one of our state public universities is among the best bargains in the nation. That commitment to higher education is vital to the future health and growth of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma higher education is an incredible economic engine for our state. As the state's largest two universities with more than 65,000 students, the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University have a combined economic impact of more than $2.5 billion. That's $5 for every dollar in state appropriations to the two institutions.
As the state's two research universities, we combined for more than $460 million in funded research activity this past year. Through innovation and discovery in medicine, agriculture, energy, national security and virtually every other field, OSU and OU are saving lives and improving our world. Our work also is generating businesses and bringing jobs to Oklahoma.
Gov. Fallin has called upon all state agencies to become more efficient and look for ways to reduce costs. We stand ready to do our part. In fact, we are well on our way. Higher education has an excellent record of efficiency and productivity. In the past three years, public universities and colleges have registered more than $112 million in cost savings.
OU and OSU have spent the past few years addressing budget shortfalls with pay freezes, limited hiring, significant reductions in energy costs, cuts in spending on travel and training, delays or the elimination of capital purchases, as well as the use of technology to modernize and increase productivity. Through all these efforts, we have never wavered in our core academic mission.
We fully appreciate the challenges facing state leaders as they address many budget priorities. Higher education is one priority that has a proven track record and offers an outstanding return. An investment in higher education is an investment in Oklahoma's future success.