As state funding for higher education has risen across the country, Oklahoma has been one of five states that’s seen a decline in the last five years.
Between 2015 and 2020, higher education funding from states rose by on average 18.8% which represents $15.3 billion total. In Oklahoma, funding fell 18.6% or $195 million, according to the Grapevine Survey, conducted by Illinois State University. The survey measures state support of colleges and universities nationwide.
The only state that saw a bigger percentage decrease in state funding was Alaska, which has been cut by 21.9% in the last five years. During the same period that state’s economy experienced a recession lasting three years.
States bordering Oklahoma all saw an increase in state support over the last five years, ranging from a modest 1.4% bump in New Mexico to explosive 42.2% growth in Colorado.
Last year was the first time Oklahoma’s legislature increased higher education’s budget in more than a decade, giving it a targeted four percent bump worth $28 million to fund faculty salary increases and research.
Between 2008 and 2018, state lawmakers slashed the state appropriation for Oklahoma’s universities and colleges by more than 25% or $265 million annually.
Heading into the 2020 legislative session, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education are asking the state legislature for a $125 million budget increase. This is a fraction of what it would take to return Oklahoma higher education to its pre-recession budget of $1.2 billion.
The request, formally called the system’s “budget needs,” serves as a wishlist, which has not been granted by the state legislature in the past.