Higher Education

J. Scott Moody & Wendy Warcholik, Ph.D. | September 9, 2016

To Control Runaway Costs in Higher Education, Oklahoma Must Pare Down Non-Instructional Workers

J. Scott Moody & Wendy Warcholik, Ph.D.

The U.S. Census Bureau keeps track of all types of data on Oklahoma’s higher education system. The chart below uses Census data to examine the dramatic size and growth in the number of non-instructional workers (per 100 private-sector workers) in Oklahoma’s higher education system.

There are two major points gleaned from this chart. First, Oklahoma’s higher education system employs 2.4 non-instructional workers, which is a whopping 61 percent higher than the national average and the 4th highest level in the country for 2014 (the latest data available). To get back to the national average, Oklahoma’s higher education system would have to shed 12,033 non-instructional workers—to 19,701 workers from the current level of 31,734 workers.

Secondly, and even more troubling, is that the linear growth line shows that the rate of growth in non-instructional workers is higher than the national average, though the dip in the most recent year moderates Oklahoma’s growth rate somewhat. It is an open question as to whether the 2014 dip is transient or is in fact a down payment toward right-sizing the non-instructional workforce.

Overall, this chart strongly suggests that Oklahoma’s policymakers must demand a thorough accounting from higher education officials as to why the state diverges not only in the size of its non-instructional workforce but also why it has historically grown faster than the national average.

J. Scott Moody

OCPA Research Fellow

OCPA research fellow J. Scott Moody (M.A., George Mason University) serves as chief executive officer of State Budget Solutions. Formerly a senior economist at the Tax Foundation and a senior economist at the Heritage Foundation, he has twice testified before the Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. Moody is the co-creator of the Tax Foundation’s popular “State Business Tax Climate Index.” His work has appeared in Forbes, CNN Money, State Tax Notes, The Oklahoman, and several other publications. This article is an updated version of an analysis published in 2008.

Wendy Warcholik, Ph.D.

OCPA Research Fellow

Wendy P. Warcholik (Ph.D., George Mason University) is an OCPA research fellow. She formerly served as an economist at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, and was the chief forecasting economist for the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services. She is a co-creator (with J. Scott Moody) of the Tax Foundation’s popular “State Business Tax Climate Index.”

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