Relatively low pay for professors is beginning to make it difficult to attract quality candidates, a faculty representative told the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.
Aaron Elmer, a biology professor at Murray State College in Tishomingo, spoke at a Thursday meeting on behalf of the board's Faculty Advisory Council.
State budget cuts have forced campuses to freeze or cut faculty salaries over the past few years. That makes the search process for new faculty members all the more challenging, he said. Institutions often wind up hiring their fifth or sixth choice for a position because they can't afford the candidates they'd prefer.
Despite that challenge, Elmer said, Oklahoma's colleges and universities have assembled a talented group of faculty members who are committed to the state's college completion goals.
Gov. Mary Fallin has called for an additional 20,400 degrees and certificates to be awarded in Oklahoma over the next 12 years. That goal is a part of Complete College America, a nationwide initiative designed to boost college completion.
Higher education officials announced earlier this year that they'd far exceeded their completion benchmark for the first year of the initiative. Oklahoma's public colleges and universities, together with private schools and CareerTech centers, had expected to produce 1,700 additional degrees and certificates during the 2011-2012 academic year. In September, officials announced public colleges and universities alone had produced 1,900 more graduates.
Officials have warned that the first year of the initiative was likely the easiest, and that the program may not see similar success in the years to come. Although the next 11 years are uncertain, Elmer said, faculty members are committed to working with higher education officials to meet those goals.