Higher Education

Jay Chilton | January 17, 2017

State Regents Define Goals, Advocate Increased Funding

Jay Chilton

OKLAHOMA CITY — The State Regents for Higher Education voted Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, to request an 18.3 percent increase in funding from the State of Oklahoma. On Friday, Jan. 6, they presented their justifications for their $957.9 million funding request to the House Budget Committee in a meeting in the House chamber.

Chancellor Glen Johnson described the Regents’ 2017 agenda as having three goals. He said they seek to increase the overall total of college graduates in the state, improve the quality of higher education in Oklahoma while increasing accessibility to post-secondary education in the state, and to better prepare students for success in what he called the global economy.

Johnson said that at the state’s 25 colleges and universities, degree completion for the nearly 400,000 students was their most important goal and the Regents planned to focus on five tactics to increase the number of degrees in Oklahoma. The “Oklahoma Plan” was developed with Complete College America, a national nonprofit organization that seeks to increase career certificates or college degrees and close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations.

The plan, launched in September of 2011, aims to increase the number of degrees and certificates earned in Oklahoma by 67 percent by 2023. The areas of development addressed by the program are focusing on college readiness, transforming remediation, developing pathways to success, increasing adult degree completion, and rewarding performance. To date, Oklahoma has increased its number of degrees and certificates by 8,462, surpassing the state benchmark goal of 6,800.

“Where are we four years into this initiative?” Johnson asked the legislators rhetorically. “The goal was to move us from 30,500 degrees, which was our number in 2011, in the next 12 years to 50,900. A 67 percent increase in college degree completion.

“To do that we had to increase degree and certificates by at least 1,700 a year. We’re four years into it, and you can see, we’re ahead of the game at this point.

“The goal we should be at 6,800, we’re at 84. That’s the good news. The not so good news is that we are tapering off, rather significantly.”

He went on to explain that in the first two years of the program, the success of the program was high, but in the following two years, the rate of that success has slowed dramatically.

He suggested that recent reductions in funding were responsible for the decline in the rate of the program’s success and that an increase in funding would, in his view, return the program to its former rate of return.

“I think our message today is,” Johnson concluded, “we want to be partners with you (legislators) in this process.

“We took a very significant cut last year. We understand it’s on our back to make the case to each of you that as you look at this budget dilemma and establish priorities—and whatever priorities mean, priorities might mean some additional revenue, the priorities might mean a lesser budget cut—whatever the priority is, we just want to do all that we can to make the case to all of you, that higher education needs to be a funding priority.”

Jay Chilton

Independent Journalist

Jay Chilton is a multiple-award-winning photojournalist including the Oklahoma Press Association’s Photo of the Year in 2013. His previous service as an intelligence operative for the U.S. Army, retail and commercial sales director, oil-field operator and entrepreneur in three different countries on two continents and across the U.S. lends a wide experience and context helping him produce well-rounded and complete stories. Jay’s passion is telling stories. He strives to place the reader in the seat, at the event, or on the sideline allowing the reader to experience an event through his reporting. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the University of Central Oklahoma with a minor in photographic arts. Jay and his wife live in Midwest City with three dogs and innumerable koi enjoying frequent visits from their children.

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