Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education

Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education

Great Seal of Oklahoma
Agency overview
Formed March 11, 1941
Headquarters 655 Research Parkway
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Employees 324
Annual budget $386 million
Ministers responsible
Agency executive
Website www.okhighered.org

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education is the agency of the government of Oklahoma that serves as the governing body of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, which is the largest provider of higher education in the state of Oklahoma. The State System consists of all institutions of higher education in Oklahoma that are supported (wholly or in part) by direct legislative appropriations from the Oklahoma Legislature.

The State Regents are the statewide coordinating board of control for the state’s twenty-five colleges and universities, ten constituent agencies, and two higher education programs. The State Regents is a nine-member board, with the members are appointed by the Governor of Oklahoma with approval of the Oklahoma Senate. Each member serves a nine-year term, with one member's term expiring each year, and can be reappointed to continue in service.

The current Chancellor of the Higher Education System is Dr. Glen D. Johnson, Jr..

Together with the Oklahoma State Department of Education and the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, the State System forms the core of Oklahoma's public education system.



The history of higher education in the State of Oklahoma begins before the days of the Oklahoma Territory (which existed from 1890 to 1907) in Indian Territory, and were started either by Indian tribes or by religious organizations for the benefit of Indian tribes.

The first higher education institution in the territory is what is now Northeastern State University, which was founded on May 7, 1851 as the Cherokee National Female Seminary. On March 6, 1909, the State Legislature of Oklahoma passed an act providing for the creation and location of Northeastern State Normal School at Tahlequah, Oklahoma (Capital of the Cherokee Nation), and for the purchase form the Cherokee Tribal Government of the Cherokee Female Seminary.

St. Gregory's University was originally founded in 1875 as Sacred Heart Mission, founded in Atoka, Oklahoma (the oldest Catholic parish in Indian Territory) by the Benedictine monks. In 1876, the mission relocated near Konawa, Oklahoma and became an abbey. Sacred Heart College was founded with the permission of the Vatican in 1877 and later gained approval from the territorial government in 1883. The institution was moved to Shawnee, Oklahoma (near the capital of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation as well as the Seminole Nation) as the Catholic University of Oklahoma in 1910, and in 1922, the name was changed to St. Gregory's College.

Bacone College was founded in 1880 as the Indian University in Muskogee, Oklahoma (Capital of the Creek Nation) by Almon C. Bacone, and is the oldest continuously operated institution of higher education in Oklahoma. The college has strong historic ties to various tribal nations, including the Cherokee Nation and the Muscogee Creek Nation, as well as the American Baptist Churches of America.

What is now the University of Tulsa was originally founded in Muskogee as the Presbyterian School for Indian Girls in 1882. The institution was rechartered as the Henry Kendall College in 1894 under the auspices of the Presbyterian Women's Board of Home Missions. In 1907 the college moved to its current site in Tulsa, Oklahoma and became the University of Tulsa in 1920.

The first public universities in Oklahoma date back before Oklahoma's statehood in 1907. The first territorial legislature of Oklahoma Territory, in accordance with the Oklahoma Territory Organic Act, enacted laws creating three institutions of higher education in 1890. The United States Congress mandated that the Territory have access to three different types of colleges: a liberal arts and professional education college, an agriculture and mechanical arts college to meet the provisions of the Morrill Act of 1862, and a normal school college

On December 19 of 1890, the first Governor of Oklahoma Territory George Washington Steele signed the bill that created the Oklahoma Territorial University at Norman (now the University of Oklahoma), the institution designated to provide the liberal arts and professional education, as the first university in Oklahoma. Six days later, on Christmas Day, 1890, Governor Steele signed the bills creating the Oklahoma Territorial Agricultural and Mechanical College at Stillwater as a land grant institution (now Oklahoma State University) and the Oklahoma Territorial Normal School at Edmond (now University of Central Oklahoma) to provide training for public school teachers in the new territory.

The Territorial Normal School opened on November 1, 1891. Six weeks later, on December 14, Territorial A&M College opened. The Territorial University would not open until August 1892 with Dr. David Ross Boyd as the University’s first president.

Later, the Territorial Legislature established four more higher education institutions: the Colored Agricultural and Normal University at Langston (now Langston University) and the Normal School for Teachers at Alva (now Northwestern Oklahoma State University) in 1897. and the Normal School for Teachers at Weatherford (now Southwestern Oklahoma State University) and the Oklahoma University Preparatory School at Tonkawa (now Northern Oklahoma College) in 1901.


As Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territories moved towards statehood as the State of Oklahoma, talks began to establish public higher education institutions in the former Indian Terrority. The former Oklahoma Territory already had seven established public higher education institutions while there were no such public institutions in the Indian Territory. State leaders immediately set out to increase access to the new state's public higher education colleges and universities.

Under the leadership of the first Governor of Oklahoma, Charles N. Haskell, the first Oklahoma Legislature created two collegiate-level schools in the former Indian Territory: the Industrial Institute and College for Girls at Chickasha (now the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma) and the School of Mines and Metallurgy at Wilburton (now Eastern Oklahoma State College). The Legislature intended for the school at Wilburton to become the eastern duplicate of the now University of Oklahoma at Norman.

Within two years, nine more colleges had been established throughout the state. Although no more state institutions were created for nearly 50 years, the names, functions or governing structures of the public colleges and universities was in almost constant change.

Early coordination

As the number of institutions grew so did the competition for legislative funding. Combined with considerable political activity throughout institutional governance, many called for a state system to coordinate the various colleges and universities. In early statehood, university presidents (and faculty to a lesser degree) were viewed as political appointments; it would not be uncommon for a new crop of university presidents to be appointed each time a new governor took office.

As early as 1913, the second governor of Oklahoma, Lee Cruce, pleaded with the legislature for consolidation of institutional functions and the abolition of some of the smaller schools.

In 1929, Governor William J. Holloway recommended to that the legislature reduce the number of institutional governing bodies and called for a central coordinating agency. The Legislature passed a bill providing for a board to consist of the Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction, two members to be appointed by the governor, and the presidents of five state institutions. The two gubernatorial appointees were never named and the ex-officio members never met.

Early in 1933, Governor William H. Murray, by executive order, created a nine-member committee to coordinate public higher education. Soon thereafter, the Legislature passed a bill the statutorily created a fifteen-member central board. Although Governor Murray signed the bill and appointed the board members, the board never received any legislative funding. Despite this, the board still met and adopted a set of guiding principles for the coordinating work of the board. However, by the time Governor Murray left office, the terms of all the board members ended. Governor E.W. Marland, Murry's successor, left the positions until and never made any new appointments during his four-year term of office.

State system formed

In 1939, new Governor Leon C. Phillips named new members and the coordinating board resumed operations. The board recommended that the board be given constitutional authority to ensure it would continue to function. Working off the board's recommendation, the 1941 Legislature proposed an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution establishing Article XIII-A. Following legislative approval of the proposed amendment, a special election was held on March 11, 1941, at which the amendment was adopted. The amendment created the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education as the system's governing body.

To maintain academic independence from state politics, the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education was created in 1941 through constitutional amendment (Article XIII-A), governed by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. The State Regents prescribe academic standards of all higher education in the state (for both public and private institutions). The State Regents also determine functions and courses of study at public colleges and universities, grant degrees, and recommend proposed fees within limits set by the Legislature. In general, the State Regents receive a single higher education appropriation from the legislature and have the constitutional responsibility to allocate those budget items to each Governing Board of Regents or Board of Trustees of a constituent agency. Additional constituent agencies of the State System of Higher Education include:

While the State Regents are the coordinating board of control for all higher education institutions in the State, governing boards of regents and boards of trustees are responsible for the operation and management of each State System institution or higher education program in Title 70 of Oklahoma Statutes.

Additionally, the Oklahoma Constitution establishes three Governing Boards of Regents to provide governance various institutions of higher education.

Members of the State Regents

As of May, 2016, the current State Regents for Higher Education are:

Name Profession Hometown Term Expires Office
Joseph L. Parker, Jr. Business Owner Tulsa 2023 Assistant Secretary
Ann Holloway Investments Ardmore 2024
Andrew W. "Andy" Lester Lawyer Edmond 2025
James D. "Jimmy" Harrel Banker Leedey 2017
Mike Turpen Attorney Oklahoma City 2018
John Massey Banker Durant 2019 Chair
Gen. Toney Stricklin Businessman Lawton 2020
Ronald H. White, M.D. Cardiologist Oklahoma City 2021 Vice Chair
Jay Helm Real Estate Tulsa 2022 Secretary

The current Chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education is Dr. Glen D. Johnson, Jr.. The Chancellor is the chief executive officer of the State System and is appointed by the State Regents.

School Classification

The State Regents use a three tier classification system to establish a framework for overarching goals and objectives of the public institutions of higher education. Institutions of higher education can be categorized into one of three classifications:

Role of the State Regents

The State Regents prescribe academic standards of higher education, determine functions and courses of study at state colleges and universities, grant degrees, recommend to the Oklahoma Legislature budget allocations for each college and university, and recommend proposed fees within limits set by the Legislature. The State Regents also manage 27 scholarship and special programs. In addition, in cooperation with the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, the State Regents operate OneNet, the state’s information and telecommunications network for education and government. The regents also oversee the Oklahoma Guaranteed Student Loan Program, which guarantees loans made to students by the private sector.

Cooperative Alliances

The State Regents have a partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education where students enrolled in certain technical courses at a local technology center can earn transcribed college credit.


  1. "College Glossary". Retrieved 9 August 2010.
  2. "Presidents - Regional University". Retrieved 9 August 2010.
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