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Oklahoma Higher Education Spending Continues to Rise

June 1, 2017 - 1:59pm CDT

By Trent England

The Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education and administrations of state universities and colleges have become a retirement center of sorts for former politicians. Theirs are among the loudest voices at the Capitol and in the media arguing that their funding has been cut to the core.

Chancellor Glen Johnson, who earns more than the President of the United States, recently claimed: “For fiscal year 2017, cuts to public higher education exceeded $157 million, a 16.4 percent decrease from the fiscal year 2016 appropriation. With current appropriations below 2001 levels, funding for public higher education has been set back a full generation.”

Perhaps Chancellor Johnson earns the big bucks because he is careful with his words. In his statement, he makes sure to mention “appropriation” and “appropriations” even while making it sound like that is all the money spent on state higher education in Oklahoma.

The nearby chart however shows that while the legislative appropriations to higher education have declined, the total spending has dramatically increased.

In fact, total spending has increased so much in higher education that the legislature could zero out its appropriation altogether—saving more than $800 million, closing nearly all of the shortfall—and it would simply return this part of state government to slightly more than its 2013 spending level.