The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education voted Thursday to request $859.2 million for FY 2022, which reflects an increase of $88.8 million or 11.5% over the FY 2021 appropriation of $770.4 million.

‚ÄúThe funding increase requested by our state system colleges and universities reflects the need for additional investment in several critical areas,‚ÄĚ said State Regents‚Äô chair Ann Holloway. ‚ÄúThose dollars are earmarked to meet growing STEM, healthcare, and education workforce needs, expand the concurrent enrollment program, provide the state match for the Endowed Chairs Program, and address deferred facility maintenance.‚ÄĚ

The State Regents are requesting $33.8 million for STEM workforce development initiatives, including funds to help meet engineering, nursing, and teacher education workforce needs, increase the number of physician residency slots in the state, and develop microcredentials and rapid re-employment strategies.

In addition, the State Regents are requesting $30.8 million for operational cost increases, including systemwide mandatory fixed costs, deferred maintenance for campus infrastructure, and funds to support STEM Summer Academies.

Requests to restore financial aid and scholarship programs ($9.8 million), to fully fund the concurrent enrollment program for high school seniors and juniors ($4 million), and to provide endowed chair state matching funds bond authorization and debt service ($10.4 million) are also priorities.

‚ÄúIncreasing college degree completion to address workforce needs in Oklahoma remains our primary objective, and our budget request for FY 2021 demonstrates that commitment,‚ÄĚ said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. ‚ÄúAs we continue working to implement the recommendations of the State Regents‚Äô Task Force on the Future of Higher Education, we are focused on expanding STEM and workforce development initiatives, implementing strategic innovations to further enhance academic offerings, and fully funding the cost for high school seniors and juniors to participate in the concurrent enrollment program.‚ÄĚ

Strengthening Oklahoma’s workforce pipeline through the Complete College America degree and certificate completion plan continues to be a top state system priority. The state’s public and private institutions and career technology centers work collaboratively to reach the state’s goal of increasing the number of degrees and certificates earned in Oklahoma by 67% by 2023.

Another priority for the state system of higher education in the upcoming legislative session will be to maintain the current law regarding weapons on higher education campuses. Oklahoma higher education supports the second amendment and gun ownership. Under current law, campus presidents have the discretion to permit the carrying of weapons when an exception is warranted. The State Regents and the presidents of all 25 state system institutions strongly believe that the current law with regard to weapons on campus is working.

The State Regents will also continue efforts to preserve the dedicated funding source for the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship. Recognized by the Southern Regional Education Board as one of the top promise scholarship programs in the nation, Oklahoma’s Promise is considered a national model that combines emphases on academic preparation and financial support for college. More than 94,000 students have earned college tuition scholarships through Oklahoma’s Promise since the program’s inception in 1992.