Oklahoma's higher education system generates economic returns that equal nearly five times the amount of funding it receives, according to a new report from the State Chamber of Oklahoma.
According to the report, the state sees $4.72 in return for every dollar of state funding that public higher education receives.
Conducted for the State Chamber by the research firm Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, the study shows public higher education “brings highly substantial benefits for Oklahoma.” The business lobbying group released the study Wednesday.
According to the report, the total economic output of the higher education system during the 2011 fiscal year was $9.22 billion. That figure includes the creation of about 85,000 jobs.
Those jobs include positions at the colleges and universities themselves, and jobs that exist indirectly because of higher education, such as staff at student apartment developments, said Martin Grueber, a consultant with Battelle.
Oklahoma's performance in the study is fairly strong compared with similar reports the firm has prepared in other states, Grueber said.
The state also sees benefits from the higher education system that can't be defined in strictly economic terms, Grueber said — “those things that are less easy to grab hold of on any single day.”
The study notes that those who pursue higher education often see increased job satisfaction and greater personal health and longevity.
Chamber President Fred Morgan said higher education is an important component in the overall economic picture in Oklahoma. Industry leaders have expressed concern about finding qualified workers in Oklahoma, Morgan said.
“There are jobs out there, and many of those are skilled jobs that need college degrees,” he said. “We see the impact of a skilled and educated workforce, or the lack thereof, every day.”
The report echoes assertions higher education officials have made about the value of a college education to the individual student and the state as a whole.
Gov. Mary Fallin has made college completion a high priority, setting a statewide goal of an additional 20,400 degrees and certificates awarded over the next 12 years.
Citing a need for greater funding of the college completion initiative, Oklahoma higher education officials have requested a 10.2 percent increase in next year's higher education budget. That would bring the system's total appropriations to $1.05 billion for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
Oklahoma higher education Chancellor Glen Johnson said the report makes a strong case for greater investment in higher education. The higher education system has the potential to drive the state's economy in ways most agencies can't, he said.