, Muskogee, OK

February 7, 2014

Higher education vital to state

— Oklahoma’s Chancellor for Higher Education has laid out a bold plan to boost funding.

Glen D. Johnson called for a 7.7 percent increase in state higher education funding, for a total of $1.06 billion.

Let’s be clear: We are against cutting education funding. Higher education definitely needs to receive more money. But where does it come from? If the state revenue is flat, sadly, education’s budget needs to be flat as well. It should not, however, see a drop.

Johnson said he wants the 2014-15 higher education budget to fully fund concurrent enrollment, in which students take college classes while still in high school. The funding request chart showed $3 million in new money for concurrent enrollment.

This part of the plan should be funded and should be made top priority. Concurrent enrollment provides a great opportunity for students to get a jump-start on their education and generally leads to a savings for them down the road.

Education in general is one of the best — if not the best — investment the state can make. It pays us back in ways other investments don’t.

Johnson said Oklahoma higher education has a $9.2 billion impact on Oklahoma’s economy, and there is a return of $4.27 for every dollar spent on higher education.

College graduates also are staying in the state. Johnson said 87 percent of Oklahoma college graduates are remaining in the state and are employed one year after graduation.

Johnson is right to ask for such a tremendous boost in funding, but he shouldn’t count on it. He should be looking at ways to make his goals work without a funding boost, because the state Legislature sadly is not likely to boost funding.