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Students at the 2016 Commencement ceremony.

Essay: Support for Higher Education is the Answer

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Dividends Come After the Investment is Made

Supporting higher education is a vote for future economic success

By Kyle Wray, OSU Vice President of Enrollment Management and Marketing

Somewhere in Oklahoma a young high school girl dreams of attending Oklahoma State University. While her parents never went to college, they understand the importance of her attending — and earning a diploma to work in a career she needs to support herself in the future. They have spent many nights around the kitchen table planning and discussing affordability, along with the sacrifices they will have to make and the work they will need to do for her to attend OSU.

They have read the newspaper articles about the challenges facing higher education in Oklahoma and watched the news on TV. While they don't understand everything this means for them and the judgments that have to be made, the environment causes the parents to question their daughter's path to college and a bridge to a life they were never able to have for themselves. As a middle-class family, they peer over the precipice of a decision many view across this state.

While this scenario plays out for many families, it's also a metaphor for our entire state. Will Oklahoma make a commitment to its young people and thus, its own future? Support of higher education is a "yes" vote for economic success in the subsequent decades. As more students receive college diplomas, those graduates land better jobs. The value of their education enriches their lives as they raise families and serve in their communities. They buy homes, cars and other items for which they pay taxes and aid in subsidizing our state every April 15th. Higher education is a key contributor to the state's economy with Oklahoma State University alone bringing in $340 million annually from outside state borders.

The university is growing and thriving under the leadership of President Burns Hargis. OSU is one of the most affordable institutions of higher education in the Big 12 Conference, a determining factor in 50 percent of graduates leaving debt-free. However, affordability for middle-class families is being challenged, by facts and by perception. The reality is, through financial aid, scholarships and part-time work, more than half of OSU's graduates have no college debt with very few owing loans up to $20,000 — the price of a new car. 

Through efficiencies and fundraising, OSU has consistently kept tuition and fees low. The opportunity we have in front of us it to make financial decisions devoted to our own future through energies aimed at students seeking the access of a great land grant university. A university you are dedicated to. How can you assist? The scholarship dollars you give OSU aid in sustaining the fight for affordability. Never underestimate the dreams you make come true through any amount of gifts to the OSU Foundation.

Investing in higher education for future generations is a remedy for a host of ills. Businesses grow, and some relocate to states where economic engines are fed by successful college graduates. Let's keep and attract more industry to Oklahoma with an educated workforce. Spread the positive news about how and why more college graduates are good for Oklahoma and contribute to the state's prosperity.

While many serious discussions are had by families at the kitchen table, our state can make them easier by financially supporting higher education. Dividends come after the investment is made. Instead of hoping families make the best choices for their children, let's give them good reason to believe we have made it possible for them to attend OSU.


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