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Op Ed: Higher education research drives advancement, innovation

Supporting our higher education institutions and providing adequate resources for them is a priority that Americans can agree on. Higher education is the backbone for American ingenuity and innovation, and Oklahoma is home to many colleges and universities committed to quality education.

Along with groundbreaking research and enhanced learning opportunities, we must recognize that it takes a dedicated team to establish solid programs. From the security officers who keep our campuses safe to the academic advisers who improve student success, each role is crucial to the vitality of our colleges and universities.

Critics continue to refer to “administrative bloat” in higher education, yet in reality, state system campuses have invested significantly more in academics than in administration during the past nine years. Oklahoma public higher education institutions have increased investment in academic services from 75 to 78 percent of total budgeted revenue while decreasing administration costs from 6.6 to 5.7 percent.

Recent criticism has focused on the number of noninstructional staff in higher education, as though these positions contribute less to overall student success. In reality, these positions manage the very systems that support the academic enterprise.

The expansion of in-state health care services provided by the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences resulted in a combined 67 percent increase in noninstructional staff during the past 15 years, including physicians, clinicians and researchers. In fact, approximately 74 percent of employee growth during that time period is directly tied to health care services and research, both of which are largely supported by nonappropriated dollars, including revenue from medical practice plans, health research grants and private donations.

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