Policy Research Fellow

Curtis Shelton currently serves as a policy research fellow for OCPA with a focus on fiscal policy. Curtis graduated Oklahoma State University in 2016 with a Bachelors of Arts in Finance. Previously, he served as a summer intern at OCPA and spent time as a staff accountant for Sutherland Global Services.

Policy Research Fellow

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The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education recently released their budget request for the upcoming fiscal year starting on July 1. That request looks to increase the budget for higher education by 11.5 percent, a nearly $90 million increase.

According to the latest available data, state appropriations to higher education have fallen slightly over the last few years. Historically, higher education has received more than $1 billion in annual appropriations until 2017, when the legislature decided to reduce the state’s appropriation.

Source: Oklahoma State Regents Educational and General Budgets Summary and Analysis; inflation adjustments by author to 2020 dollars using the CPI inflation calculator

However, even while appropriations are slightly lower than past levels, the total budget for higher education never saw the same decline. In 2007 the total budget for higher education was $2.4 billion. By 2017 that budget had grown to $2.9 billion. Since then, the budget fell by $150 million, where it has remained steady.

Source: Oklahoma State Regents Educational and General Budgets Summary and Analysis; inflation adjustments by author to 2020 dollars using the CPI inflation calculator

Higher education’s budget request, along with the State Department of Education’s budget request, demonstrates that state agencies seem unaware of the state’s financial outlook. Last session the Oklahoma legislature had to convene in a special session to deal with a potential shortfall of $1.3 billion. After the session was resolved the official number for the shortfall was $585 million.

That outlook has not changed for the upcoming fiscal year as revenues continue to come in below the previous year’s levels. The last three months' revenue have combined to fall $102.6 million compared to last year. As the state continues to deal with the effects from the pandemic and the decline in the oil and gas industry, there is no reason to expect that trend to change soon. Oklahoma families continue to make tough decisions as they try to navigate these trying times. State agencies must do the same.

Policy Research Fellow

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