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Benefits of Higher Education  

The more highly educated a state’s population, the better its economy and quality of life. Business and industry need an educated and skilled workforce, and several companies have recently chosen Oklahoma as a place to either relocate or expand based in part on the available workforce.

For example, in 2006 Nanjing Automobile Corporation, the China-based auto manufacturer, announced that it would bring its MG Motors’ North America/Europe headquarters and assembly plant to Ardmore, where it will revive the British MG sports car. Dell Computers expanded into Oklahoma and plans more construction. Many other high-tech companies are moving into the state, such as biotechnology and pharmaceutical research companies in and around Research Park in Oklahoma City and weather-related research companies in Norman. Company officials have consistently mentioned Oklahoma’s talented workforce as one of the primary reasons for their relocations or expansions.

Graph 8A: Percent of State Population 25 Years or Older With Associate Degree and Graph 8B: Percent of State Population 25 Years or Older With Bachelor's Degree. Click graphs for enlarged versions.Current and future Oklahoma companies are able to draw from an improving pool of highly educated Oklahomans. The state has steadily increased the percentage of citizens who have a college degree (graphs 8A and 8B), and most graduates are choosing to remain in the state. The latest State Regents’ Employment Outcomes Report found that 91 percent of associate degree graduates and 88 percent of bachelor’s degree graduates who are Oklahoma residents remain in the state one year after graduation (graphs 8C and 8D). However, the percentages drop to 77 percent and 65 percent, respectively, after five years. Half of all graduates in technical fields such as engineering, computer science and the physical sciences are leaving the state after five years. But the state has seen some improvement in those areas.

Not only does the state of Oklahoma receive positive economic returns from higher education, but its citizens do as well. Workers with more education earn higher incomes, which results in more tax revenues for the state. In fact, studies show that a college graduate will earn an average of $1.1 million more than a high school graduate throughout a lifetime (table 8E). College graduates are less likely to be unemployed or need public assistance, and are less likely to be incarcerated. In addition, they are more likely to vote in elections, volunteer in their communities and make charitable contributions.

Table 8E: The Impact of Education on Individuals: Lifetime Earnings. Click table for enlarged version.

OSUIT student
Photo courtesy of Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology.