Higher Education

Oklahoma's higher education spending outstrips the national average

October 17, 2017

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.