Students from Oklahoma’s state system institutions and members of the public higher education community across the state connected with area legislators Tuesday, March 9, during a virtual advocacy day to promote the value and importance of higher education in Oklahoma.
In lieu of in-person legislative office visits and a formal program at the State Capitol, state system colleges and universities sponsored a variety of virtual activities on Virtual Higher Education Day to allow students, campus personnel, and community leaders to safely engage with legislators to demonstrate the critical role of our state system of higher education in Oklahoma’s continued workforce development and economic growth.
“We thank the students, faculty and staff from our public colleges and universities and the community champions across the state who support our campuses for reaching out virtually to Oklahoma House and Senate members to highlight the value of a college degree,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “We look forward to working with Governor Stitt and the Legislature during this legislative session to demonstrate that our budget request for the state system of higher education is specifically designed to strengthen our state’s economy and workforce.”
For FY 2022, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education have requested $859.2 million, which reflects an increase of $88.8 million or 11.5% over the FY 2021 appropriation of $770.4 million.
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.
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 top priorities in the budget request.
In addition, the State Regents are requesting $30.8 million for operational cost increases, including systemwide mandatory fixed costs, Section 13 Offset deferred maintenance for campus infrastructure improvements, and funds to support STEM Summer Academies.
Another state system priority 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 authorize who may carry weapons on campus when the individual circumstances warrant it. 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 college access 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 95,000 students have earned college tuition scholarships through Oklahoma’s Promise since the program’s inception in 1992.