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Senate To Approve Higher Education Budget Bill Today

With the Oklahoma Senate prepared to vote on the bill that will ultimately carry the appropriation for higher education, a Senate budget leader is urging Governor Keating to increase his support for colleges and universities to at least match the investment program outlined by the Oklahoma Senate.

Senate leaders have proposed a $75 million increase for higher education. The funding will ultimately be added into the budget shell bill that will be approved by the Senate today.

"We're a world apart right now, but I'm hoping Governor Keating will come down to earth on higher ed at some point," said Senator Cal Hobson, noting that Governor Keating has only proposed $43 million for higher education.

"If Governor Keating sticks with his current budget proposal, I'm afraid we'll lose ground on higher education, and we if lose ground there, we'll lose ground on economic opportunities and personal income."

The Lexington legislator, who serves as vice-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, cited a number of statistics linking higher education to economic development, namely personal income. For example:

  • Oklahomans with bachelors degrees earn $35,000 a year on average, compared to $22,000 for those with no college experience (State Regents);
  • Less than 2.5% of Oklahomans with bachelors degrees are unemployed, compared to 8% for those with no college (State Regents);
  • Only 22.8% of Oklahomans have at least an associate degree, compared to a national average of 26.5%. More than 30% of Colorado's population, Oklahoma's wealthiest neighbor, have college degrees (Census Bureau);
  • Oklahoma needs an additional 70,000 college graduates in state to reach the national average for college-educated workers and improve earnings (1996 OSU Economic Outlook);
  • Because the research functions of the Oklahoma universities are not adequately funded, the state fails to qualify for millions of matching research dollars. Oklahoma currently ranks 46th per capita in Federal Research and Development Spending (1996 Congressional Quarterly State Fact Finder);
  • Oklahoma's higher education faculty rank 40th in salaries (1996 CQ State Fact Finder);
  • Oklahoma's university library spending per capita ranks 42nd nationally (1996 CQ State Fact Finder).


"The statistics are fairly clear. They indicate higher education helps create wealth and economic activity, but unfortunately, the numbers also tell us Oklahoma isn't properly funding its universities.

"If we follow Governor Keating's strategy of slighting higher education, in effect giving it the budget leftovers, I'm concerned Oklahoma will never achieve the level of wealth and prosperity our citizens need and deserve," said Senator Hobson.

Even though Oklahoma has had growth revenue available during each year of his administration, Governor Keating has not made higher education a budget priority, even proposing a cut to colleges and universities his first year in office.




Gov. Keating's Higher Ed proposal


Amount Approved by Legislature


FY '96


$14 million cut


$ 7 million increase


FY '97


$47 million increase


$71 million increase


FY '98


$43 million increase


$75 million (proposed)

"I'm convinced Governor Keating knows the value of a higher education. That's why I'm a little dismayed by his lack of budget support for colleges and universities," noted Senator Hobson.

"I know he's fond of saying he would like to make Oklahoma rich. I would suggest that stronger support of higher education on his part would get him a little bit closer to that goal."