EDMOND — Oklahoma is making steady progress toward college completion goals but will need more funding to stay on track, the state's higher education chief said Wednesday.
Oklahoma Higher Education Chancellor Glen Johnson told a group of state legislators, congressional aides and others that the college completion initiative has support at every public college and university campus in the state.
“It requires the support of every regent body and every president, and it has that,” he said. “We're committed to this initiative.”
Johnson laid out the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education's legislative agenda for the upcoming session during a forum Wednesday at the University of Central Oklahoma. At the center of that agenda is a request that includes a budget increase of $90.4 million, or about 9.47 percent.
Most of the funding increase would be related to the college completion goals, according to the appropriations request. The largest share — $55 million — would offset costs brought on by enrollment increases.
The state's college completion goals will make up the largest part of the agency's legislative agenda next year, Johnson said. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has called for a 67 percent increase in college degrees and certificates earned in Oklahoma by 2023.
Higher education officials announced in September the state had surpassed its goal during the 2011-2012 academic year. The state's public colleges and universities produced an additional 1,934 degrees and certificates last year compared to the year before, topping the goal of 1,700 degrees and certificates for all public and private colleges and universities as well as CareerTech centers.
But Johnson said the state likely wouldn't be able to continue on that pace with flat or declining budgets. The budget has been reduced by 8.4 percent over the past five years. Johnson said this year's budget request of $1.046 billion would still place the system behind the $1.05 billion funding level of 2008.
“We have commitment,” Johnson said. “It certainly will require more funding.”
UCO President Don Betz said the university supports the system's college completion goals. As a metropolitan university, UCO is in a strong position to contribute to that effort, he said.
“We share the regents' commitment to broadening the path to a college degree for our citizens through innovation and collaboration,” Betz said.