Between fiscal years 2009 and 2012, the system saw its budget slashed by 9.4 percent.
During the forum, Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, said he hopes to see higher education do make a priority of aligning itself with industry needs.
Higher education officials generally do a good job of laying out a legislative agenda and usually are successful in pushing that agenda through the legislature, Shannon said. But Shannon, the speaker-designate of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, said he'd like to see leaders give lawmakers more information on the impact higher education has on the business community.
The link between higher education and private industry in Oklahoma represents one of the state's strongest public-private partnerships, Shannon said. But many lawmakers are unaware of the importance of that partnership.
In many cases, Shannon said, that lack of awareness is largely due to high turnover. Because state legislators work under term limits, each new legislative session brings a new set of lawmakers who may not understand the higher education system's mission.
Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said the higher education system has done a good job over the past few years of making the best out of diminishing budgets.
Bingman said he was concerned about the issue of student debt upon graduation. In the future, he said, he hopes to see colleges and universities do a better job of giving students information on the salaries they can reasonably expect to earn after graduation, and how large a loan they could expect to pay off on that income.