By the time Oklahoma became the 46th state upon its accession in 1907, its tradition of public higher education had already been established. The University of Central Oklahoma and the University of Oklahoma, Norman had already been in operation for 17 years. The former is home to 17,000 students today and was recently named by the Chronicle of Higher Education as one of the best universities to work for. The latter is both the flagship institution of the University of Oklahoma System and the largest school in the state.
Serving roughly 30,000 students today, Oklahoma University is among U.S. News & World Report's favorite public universities. It frequently ranks in the publication's Top 50 and according to its own reporting, ranked first among all universities private or public in its enrollment of freshman National Merit scholars in 2015. The University also notes that it is the only of its Big 12 Conference competitors to rank as having one of America's 25 most beautiful campuses.
Speaking of the Big 12 Conference, Oklahoma University owns a proud athletic legacy, particularly through its men's football team. The Sooners are winners of seven national championships, producers of five Heisman Trophy winners, and the launchpad for future NFL Hall of Famer Troy Aikman.
Oklahoma University is one of the state's 30 public institutions. Another is the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. The Chickasha-based school is uniquely situated as the only liberal arts-focused public college in the state. Though it was founded as an all women's school in 1908, today it is home to 1200 coed students. U.S. News & World Report ranks it as one of the best public schools in which to pursue a comprehensive bachelor's degree program.
Another of Oklahoma's public schools, Northeastern State University holds the distinction of being home to the largest number and percentage of Native American students in the nation.
Oklahoma is also host to an additional 14 non-profit private universities, Southern Nazarene University and Oklahoma City University most notable among them.
The state of Oklahoma ranks as one of the more affordable places to pursue a public education as well. During the 2012-2013 academic year, Oklahoma's in-state students paid an average tuition of $5,882. In addition to falling well below the national average of $8,070, this number was the eighth lowest in the U.S. during that time span.