Higher Education

J. Scott Moody & Wendy Warcholik, Ph.D. | October 17, 2017

Oklahoma's higher education spending outstrips the national average

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

The chart below uses the latest available U.S. Census Bureau data to examine the growth in higher education spending (as a percent of the private-sector share of personal income) between fiscal year (FY) 1992 and FY 2014. There are two major points to be gleaned from this chart.


First, average spending over this time period on Oklahoma’s higher education system is a whopping 39 percent higher than the national average (3.1 percent vs. 2.2 percent) in FY 2014. This averaged the 11th highest level in the country (between FY 1992 and FY 2014).

State lawmakers, in their oversight role, should examine where the money is going.

Second, and even more troubling, is that the linear growth line shows that Oklahoma’s rate of higher education spending is faster than the national average—even despite the recent private-sector energy boom which dramatically drove down the burden of higher education spending in recent years.

To their credit, many state lawmakers have spent the last few months looking for ways to deliver government services more efficiently. As they continue to do so, and as the 2018 legislative session gets under way, we would suggest that higher education deserves careful scrutiny.

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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