Refreshing to see bipartisan work on capital needs for regional, rural universities (Capitol Update)

An encouraging piece of bipartisan work by House Speaker Pro Tem Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, and House Democratic Leader Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City, will occur in the form of an interim study sometime this fall. They made a joint request for the study, the purpose of which is to help assess the capital needs for regional and rural universities. The study was approved by Speaker Charles McCall and assigned to the Higher Education and Career Tech Committee chaired by Rep. Anthony Moore, R-Clinton, where it will be conducted. 

According to the request, a large portion of Oklahoma graduates come from institutions in the Regional University System of Oklahoma (RUSO). These institutions play a vital role in creating a trained workforce for the state. The study request is the outgrowth of work Reps. Hilbert and Munson did last year on the joint committee distributing $1.8 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. 

In the ARPA work, Hilbert and Munson learned many of these regional and rural higher education institutions lack modern facilities required to educate for today’s workforce needs. Some, but not all, of these higher education institutions received substantial investments in the FY 2023 and FY 2024 budgets. The study will examine what additional capital investment would mean for RUSO and rural colleges and universities.

This is a welcome follow up to the ARPA committee’s work. The committee received over $14 billion in requests for the $1.8 billion in ARPA funding. No doubt legislators were surprised, if not shocked, at the pent-up needs in state government, as well as the creative ideas to promote growth they reviewed in the ARPA process. 

Government will never be able to meet all the needs of the people. It’s just the nature of things that there is always more to do than resources to do with. But it is refreshing to see these legislators working to wisely use available resources both to meet current needs and to give Oklahomans the educational opportunities they need to create a brighter future for the state.  


Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1990. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.