The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education voted Thursday to request $986 million in state funding for FY24, which reflects an increase of $105.1 million or 11.9% over the FY23 adjusted appropriation of $880.9 million.
“The state system of higher education’s budget request focuses on continued investment to meet growing workforce needs in several key fields, including health care, teacher education, engineering, and computer science,” said State Regents’ chair Michael C. Turpen. “We remain committed to programs that support student success and increase college degree completion, including expanded concurrent enrollment opportunities and additional financial aid for the students we serve.”
The State Regents are requesting $23 million for FY24 to fund the Oklahoma National Guard Educational Assistance Program, the Oklahoma Future Teacher Scholarship and Employment Incentive Program (“Inspired to Teach”), and the Concurrent Enrollment Tuition Waiver program.
Public higher education’s budget request also includes strategic investments that align with Oklahoma’s projected workforce needs in healthcare and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields and increase adult degree completion. The State Regents are requesting $26.3 million for critical workforce development initiatives, including funds to expand nursing education program and medical residency capacity to address the state’s shortage of Registered Nurses and physicians; support institutional efforts to increase enrollment and graduation in STEM disciplines; and continue providing scholarships for adult students nearing completion of a college degree or pursuing an industry-recognized micro-credential or certificate.
“Our primary objective is to produce more college graduates to address Oklahoma’s evolving workforce demands,” said Chancellor Allison D. Garrett. “This budget request reflects state system priorities to build on successful workforce development initiatives, fully fund concurrent enrollment for high school juniors and seniors, and support academic and operational innovations at our public colleges and universities.”
The State Regents are requesting $49.3 million in FY24 to fund performance-based institutional allocations to address operational support needs; strengthen college access and academic success services for students; fund strategic collaborations, shared services, and educational resources that drive long-term efficiencies across the state system; and continue investments in data analytics, digital transformation, and cybersecurity. The budget request also includes capital funding for system and structure upgrades to enhance campus safety and security.
The State Regents are requesting a FY23 supplemental appropriation of $9 million to fund the Oklahoma National Guard Educational Assistance Program, established by SB 1418 during the 2022 legislative session. While the annualized cost to deliver the program is reflected in public higher education’s FY24 budget request, supplemental funds are needed to reimburse state system institutions for costs incurred during the 2022-23 academic year.
Additional priorities for the State Regents in the upcoming legislative session include universal completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for high school seniors, which has spurred college enrollment increases in other states, and refinements to the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program. The State Regents’ goals include streamlining high school course requirements for scholarship eligibility, an adjustable formula for income limits each year to increase flexibility for eligible students and families, and an appeal process to assist students facing unique circumstances. 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 100,000 students have earned college tuition scholarships through Oklahoma’s Promise since the program’s inception.