Ray Carter | February 14, 2023
Oklahoma college tuition and fees to freeze under bill
Oklahoma’s public colleges would not be allowed to boost tuition or fees above current levels under legislation approved by a state Senate committee.
“I am concerned that students are having to make tough value-proposition decisions in terms of pursuing higher education,” said state Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond.
Senate Bill 363, by Pugh, states that beginning with the 2023-2024 academic year, “the tuition and fee rates to be charged to students enrolled at an institution within The Oklahoma State System of Higher Education shall not exceed the tuition and fee rates approved by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education for the 2022-2023 academic year.”
Pugh said the intent is not to cut college funding, but to instead make any increase reliant on state appropriations rather than tuition increases. He said the rapidly increasing cost of college appears to be harming Oklahoma’s workforce development.
“Our higher-ed enrollment is down,” Pugh said. “It’s actually down significantly. I went back and looked a decade, and a decade ago our higher-ed enrollment at end-of-year count, which is the only data I could have, we were 10 years ago just over 150,000 (students). And last year we were 126,000—but our population has grown.”
The trend of declining college enrollment in Oklahoma not only bucks the trend of increasing state population but also a growing shift in the economy to jobs that require some level of higher education, Pugh noted.
He believes tuition-and-fee inflation has played a significant role in driving Oklahoma students away from college.
Since 1963, overall inflation in the economy has boosted prices by 200 percent. But the cost of college has surged 740 percent during that time.
“I can’t get anybody to answer me, ‘Why? Why are we outpacing every other indicator of a less-valuable dollar—and significantly outpacing it?’” Pugh said.
Data in a legislative fiscal analysis shows a significant increase in Oklahoma college costs has occurred in the last decade.
In 2013, the per credit hour tuition and fee charges at Oklahoma’s research universities was $246.40. By 2022, the cost had risen to $309.20. At regional four-year universities in Oklahoma, the cost increased from $167.20 in 2013 to $245.40 in 2022. At the state’s two-year colleges, costs rose from $105.90 to $154.60.
Pugh noted that 12 other states have implemented similar freezes on college tuition and fees, and the flagship universities in other states have also locked rates.
SB 363 passed the Senate Education Committee on a 12-0 vote.
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.