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Oklahoma higher ed chancellor: The best investment for a bright future

BY GLEN D. JOHNSON Published: April 21, 2013

Over the past several years, Oklahoma's public colleges and universities have experienced record enrollments and produced more graduates in the midst of growing public discussion about the value of a college degree and the linkage between more college degree holders and the strength of the state's economy.

A report released April 3 from the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, commissioned by the State Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation, Oklahoma Business Roundtable and Oklahoma Department of Commerce, confirms the critical role that higher education plays in driving Oklahoma's economy forward. The study reveals that Oklahoma's public higher education system generates more than $9.2 billion in economic impacts in the state and supports more than 85,000 jobs. Further, the study finds that for every dollar of state appropriations spent on public higher education, $4.72 is returned to Oklahoma's economy. Clearly, this is a significant return on investment for the state.

Oklahoma's state system institutions are the key provider of postsecondary education, enrolling more than 190,000 students and awarding more than 32,000 degrees annually. Gov. Mary Fallin has said that increasing the number of college degree holders in Oklahoma is a top priority, and the comprehensive way state leaders have embraced a degree completion initiative, Complete College America, has led to Oklahoma's designation as a national model for degree completion. In year one, Oklahoma's public colleges and universities reported an increase of 1,934 degrees and certificates conferred, exceeding the target goal by 14 percent.

The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission tells us that 89 percent of our graduates live and work in Oklahoma one year after graduation. One of the primary reasons our graduates are staying in Oklahoma is higher education's efforts to link academic programs more closely to the stated needs of business, particularly in the areas of health care, nursing, engineering, business, aerospace and wind turbine technologies.

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