Meg Salyer: Oklahoma science-math school merits strong support

BY MEG SALYER Published: November 6, 2013

Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics is an economic engine for Oklahoma. Positioning the state to attract high-tech business requires a workforce skilled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Bright students come from all over Oklahoma to attend OSSM.

Hundreds of sophomores apply each year for 60 to 70 junior spots. The urban/rural split for attendees is about 40/60 percent. All go to college — more than half in Oklahoma — and more than half are staying in or returning to Oklahoma after higher education. Most importantly, 85 percent are staying in STEM-related fields, a much higher percentage than in the nation or in Oklahoma as a whole. OSSM is working for Oklahoma.

OSSM challenges qualifying high school juniors and seniors with one of the most rigorous math and science curriculums in the country. The Oklahoma City campus provides a residential environment supportive of academics. OSSM also operates a dozen regional centers and provides a range of outreach programs for middle school students and quality training for middle school math and science teachers, raising the level of math and science education across the state.

Cuts in public funding over the past five years threaten the survival of this Oklahoma gem, just when two decades' investment is beginning to pay off and the dividends are poised to increase. Strong private support has increased dorm space, yet budget constraints still limit OSSM admissions. The regional centers are considered very important by many legislators, yet insufficient funding continues to cripple these efforts, resulting in the recent reduction in the number of instructors. A modest increase in funding would allow OSSM to accept all qualified Oklahoma students next year, stabilize and strengthen regional center offerings and avoid further faculty layoffs.

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