Three major issues face higher education in Oklahoma: the stigma placed on CareerTech certification, the failure to complete college and the shortfall of rigorous higher education.
In today’s educational environment, there still seems to be a stigma attached to a CareerTech education or career certification. Oklahoma has one of the finest CareerTech systems in the country. Yet many parents and students believe the only credible education is a college degree. This comes at a time when we’re hurting for those in the trade fields who often have greater earning capacity than those with a college degree.
We need to encourage students who have talents and inclinations to work in building, plumbing, energy and the myriad of other fields that don’t require a college education. The challenge is to develop more pride in completing career certification and work in the fields that don’t require a college education to be successful.
The Board of Regents for Higher Education in Oklahoma is to be commended for its efforts to increase the percentage of those who start college and those who complete a degree program. Oklahoma has become a model program for Complete College America. This is a nationally led program to dramatically increase plans and goals to encourage aggressive state and campus programs that encourage and support degree completion.
As the owner and operator of institutions of higher education, the state owes it to student and parents, footing the bill, to do everything possible to encourage and support a higher percentage of graduation. This can be done through better remediation, student advisement and tuition plans that encourage students to complete their degree.
My grandfather was only able to complete eighth grade at the turn of the 20th century. His eighth-grade math, reading and English skills provided for an education that fulfilled his needs to own and operate a business for 50 years. In those days it was often difficult to finish high school or much less attend college, yet he was able to function quite well in the business environment of the day.
Even though we live in a high-tech society, it seems that the education experience was more rigorous at the turn of the century than it is today. Completing a college degree doesn’t mean anything if you haven’t experienced the rigorous training that provides a quality education in your field of study along with an advanced knowledge of math, science, English and the arts.
The challenge in Oklahoma is to encourage those who want to pursue a career in the trades or professional certification by attending CareerTech or community college, and at the same time, do everything possible to support and encourage college-bound students to complete college in a rigorous and timely manner.
Wright, R-Weatherford, represents District 57 in the Oklahoma House.