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Benefits of Higher Education

An analysis recently conducted by Regional Economic Models Inc. demonstrates the enormous economic impact made by higher education. The study shows that the relatively small annual investment in higher education through legislative appropriations yields a large return. The most recent analysis year shows that $1.09 billion in state funding results in $6.76 billion in economic activity. In other words, $1 from the state enables $5 of additional economic activity that is a result of graduate earnings and productivity, direct institutional employment, and institutional, student and visitor spending.

The more highly educated a state’s population, the better its economy and quality of life. Business and industry need an educated and skilled workforce, and several companies have recently chosen Oklahoma as a place to either relocate or expand based in part on the available workforce.

For example, the Forensic Science Institute at the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, is set to become a world-class facility dedicated to quality forensic science education, training and research for professionals and students. The University Multispectral Laboratory in Ponca City is a leading research, development, training and evaluation complex certifying a wide variety of fully tested and reliable sensor and security systems for government, industry and academia. Belgian-based Umicore recently broke ground in Quapaw on a $35 million factory that will make parts for solar panels used on satellites and other objects in space. Many other high-tech companies are moving into the state, such as biotechnology and pharmaceutical research companies in and around Research Park in Oklahoma City and weather-related research companies in Norman. These companies are dependent upon a highly educated and skilled workforce. Oklahoma’s colleges and universities are key components in helping these companies succeed in the state. Company officials have consistently mentioned Oklahoma’s talented workforce as one of the primary reasons for their relocations or expansions.

Current and future Oklahoma companies are able to draw from an improving pool of highly educated Oklahomans. The state has steadily increased the percentage of citizens who have a college degree (graphs 11A and 11B), and most graduates are choosing to remain in the state.

The latest State Regents’ Employment Outcomes Report found that 92 percent of associate degree graduates and 89 percent of bachelor’s degree graduates who are Oklahoma residents remain in the state one year after graduation (graphs 12A and 12B). However, the percentages drop to 78 percent and 69 percent, respectively, after five years. Half of all graduates in technical fields such as engineering, computer science and the physical sciences are leaving the state after five years. But the state has seen some improvement in those areas. Furthermore, students who stay in the state for five years after graduation continue to see an increase in their salaries (graph 12C).

OSUIT student
Photo courtesy of Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology.