The Norman Transcript

Opinion

February 5, 2014

Higher education cuts won’t boost grad rolls

NORMAN — Oklahoma has been making strides in its push to produce more college graduates. Enrollments are up. Energy efficiency is better and schools are doing more with less. The governor and higher education regents are part of Complete College America, a national effort to increase the percentage of grads and students who earn technical certifications.

It’s all about economic development. Businesses that want to invest in our state want to locate in areas with a high percentage of college graduates.

The governor’s budget doesn’t target an increase for higher education. Common schools will receive a boost of $50 million, but higher education, if nothing changes, would likely lose about $50 million from its nearly $1 billion budget.

OU President David Boren and OSU President Burns Hargis expressed hope that cuts to higher education could be avoided. Both presidents have expressed concern that the percent of state support for their universities has slipped in the past decade.

“Failure to adequately support higher education and all of education will discourage the creation of new jobs and investments in our state,” Boren said Monday. “Investors are looking for a highly educated and trained work force. It is a tragic mistake to invest less per student in education than is being invested in surrounding states.”

Chancellor Glen Johnson has requested a 7.7 percent, or $76.3 million, increase in state higher education funding. That would put the state’s higher education budget at just more than $1 billion, or about a seventh of the state’s overall budget.

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