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Higher education chancellor presents legislative agenda focusing on need for college completion
With the demand for employees who have certificates and degrees increasing, college completion has never been a higher priority in the state of Oklahoma than it is now. That was the message delivered by Chancellor Glen D. Johnson as he presented the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education's upcoming legislative agenda to Tulsa-area lawmakers, community leaders and educators at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa's Helmerich Research Center on Thursday.
The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education recently voted to request $90.4 million in new state appropriations during the upcoming legislative session. The total budget request for FY 2014 is 9.47 percent higher than the current year's appropriation.
To aid state colleges and universities in producing more college graduates, the state regents are requesting $55 million for Complete College America performance funding needs. This will provide funding for additional course sections, full-time faculty and financial aid. This will also fund increased needs for information technology equipment, library resources and other operational needs to support near-record student enrollment.
Oklahoma's public colleges and universities continue to take steps to cut operational costs. A total of $411 million in actual and projected cost savings has been identified from 2010-14 in technology and energy consumption, as well as in personnel costs and supplies.
"Oklahoma's system of higher education remains committed to producing a quality, educated workforce to prepare our students to compete globally," said Johnson. "We believe our budget request makes a very persuasive case for our policy leaders to further invest in higher education. These funds would assist our institutions in achieving our Complete College America degree completion goals and will help to ensure student access and success in college."
College completion continues to be higher education's No. 1 priority. The state regents are seeking $2.5 million for online education and degree completion technology. This will increase students' ability to enroll in additional course sections and improve evaluation and transparency through software development and training.
Howard Barnett, president of OSU-Tulsa and OSU Center for Health Sciences, said helping students finish their bachelor's degree is beneficial to individuals and to the state as a whole.
"Studies have consistently proven that people with a bachelor's degree earn higher salaries, have increased job security and have an overall better quality of life than those without college degrees," said Barnett. "The Complete College America initiative is in keeping with the mission of OSU-Tulsa, which is primarily to help working adults finish their education. We do this by offering innovative courses, enhanced student services and flexible class schedules."
The state regents are also requesting $7.5 million to fund a grant program that will enhance higher education institutions' efforts to provide students guidance in completing their degrees. Funding would be directed to special services in career counseling, advisement, financial aid and efficiency in degree attainment.
Increased financial aid funding will also be a priority for the state regents in the upcoming legislative session to reduce the financial barriers that prevent students from attending college. The state regents seek to increase funding by $2.5 million for the concurrent enrollment program, which enables high school juniors and seniors to take credit-earning college courses.
The state regents are also requesting an additional $540,000 for the Summer Academies program, $1.3 million for the Oklahoma Tuition Aid and Oklahoma Tuition Equalization grants, $200,000 for the Academic Scholars program and $250,000 for an adult degree completion community scholarship match.
The total appropriation request for FY 2014 is $1.05 billion.