The last days of the legislative session were hectic for the State Regents for Higher Education.
Of the many decisions and meetings, the decision to accept the legislature’s $777 million budget allocation was difficult. It stalled the regents’ meeting for more than an hour and a half.
The regents’ action came after a general appropriations bill was passed by the Oklahoma Legislature last Friday.
Under the state’s new budget, Oklahoma’s higher education system will receive a 4.5 percent cut, from $810 million to $773 million.
Amanda Paliotta, Vice Chancellor of Budget and Finance said the cut is actually higher. Paliotta said a bill passed this year requires the regents to pay debt service that was normally shielded by lawmakers. This change, she said, pushes higher education’s budget cut to beyond 6 percent.
In addition to budget issues, the regents swore in former House Speaker Jeff Hickman as the board’s newest member. Hickman said he is eager to get to work.
“I am committed to working with my colleagues on the State Regents for Higher Education, the Governor, legislators and the Chancellor to identify ways to advance our higher education system in Oklahoma,” he said.
The regents also recognized several Oklahoma college students, placing them on the student advisory board. The students offered several suggestions, including ideas to help supplement the cost for college students.
The regents also reviewed several new courses and faculty at multiple colleges and universities. Oklahoma City Community College was approved to offer a course for Applied Science in Anesthesia.
“We recognize this was an extremely difficult budget year,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “Despite successive years of budget reductions, the state regents and our 25 public colleges and universities remain committed to providing Oklahoma students with a quality higher education opportunity at an affordable cost.”
Data provided by the regents shows that states with a high percentage of degree holders have higher per capita incomes and stronger, more diversified economies.
According to a report by Jonathan Rothwell, the average bachelors degree holder contributes $278,000 more to local economies than the average high school graduate. A person with an associates degree contributes $81,000 more than a high school graduate.
“We will continue to make the case that there is no better investment to ensure a brighter future for Oklahoma than the investment our policy leaders can make in higher education,” Johnson said.