Oklahoma higher education leaders concerned about shrinking state funding

During the past two decades, public colleges and universities in Oklahoma have been receiving less and less of their funding from the state. Now, some higher education leaders worry shrinking state support could hamper Oklahoma's college completion goals.
by Silas Allen Published: July 9, 2012
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Over the past two decades, public colleges and universities in Oklahoma have been receiving less and less of their funding from the state.

Now, some higher education leaders worry shrinking state support could hamper Oklahoma's college completion goals.

Since 1980, state funding has accounted for a shrinking percentage of college and university budgets in Oklahoma. At the same time, other funding sources, such as tuition and housing fees, have made up a larger share of universities' funding picture.

During the same period, the funding that goes to higher education has made up a smaller share of the state's overall budget. Higher education makes up 14.8 percent of the state's budget for the current fiscal year, down from 18.6 percent of the budget in the 1980 fiscal year.

At a recent meeting, University of Oklahoma President David Boren told the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education he was “very, very concerned” about eroding public support for higher education.

“We have an education crisis in this state, and we seem to be oblivious to it,” he said.

Completion goal

College completion has been a watchword of state and federal higher education officials in recent years. Gov. Mary Fallin and Glen Johnson, chancellor of the Oklahoma Higher Education System, have called for an additional 20,400 degrees and certificates awarded in Oklahoma over the next 12 years. That goal is a part of Complete College America, a nationwide initiative designed to boost college completion.

Boren said he's concerned those efforts could be put at risk if state funding for higher education isn't made a higher priority.

Since the 1980 fiscal year, OU has seen tuition and fees overtake state appropriations as the university's largest funding source. In 1980, the university received 38.1 percent of its budget from the state. Just 10.4 percent of the university's budget came from tuition and fees, making it the fourth-largest revenue source.

Last year, state appropriations accounted for just 18 percent of the university's budget. Tuition and fees, the largest revenue generator, made up 27.7 percent of OU's budget.

The shift also exists at Oklahoma State University, where state appropriations accounted for 42.6 percent of the university's budget in 1980 — by far the largest share. Last year at OSU, both state appropriations and tuition and fees made up about 21 percent of the university's budget.

The largest percentage of OSU's budget last year came from auxiliary enterprises, such as residential life, dining services and revenue from use fees at Lake Carl Blackwell. That money accounted for 26 percent of the university's budget.

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by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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