Oklahoma colleges need to alter business model to expand

The Oklahoma Editorial Published: October 5, 2012

Oklahoma college officials note that state appropriations account for a smaller percentage of their funding today than in 1980, but those statistics are misleading. State colleges no longer require legislative approval for tuition increases — something that didn't occur in the 1980s. Between 2003 and 2007, tuition and fees at Oklahoma universities increased by more than 50 percent. Rates have continued to climb since then. State appropriations can comprise a smaller percentage of the total budget even when lawmakers increase taxpayer funding.

Furthermore, in-state tuition and fees at OU in 1980 were $1,713 (adjusted for inflation). Today, they're $7,340. At OSU, tuition and fees jumped from an inflation-adjusted $1,677 to $7,441 today. That's an increase of more than 300 percent, after inflation, at both schools.

The forces driving more students to obtain a college education to get 21st Century jobs also allow colleges to better control costs while increasing enrollment and preserving quality. Other business models have changed since Oklahoma statehood; there's no reason our higher education system can't do the same.

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