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Oklahoma public colleges and universities sign on to degree completion initiative

by Silas Allen Published: October 3, 2012
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That same trend exists in Oklahoma, where public money represents a shrinking percentage of universities' budgets. In 1980, the University of Oklahoma received 38.1 percent of its budget from the state. Last year, state appropriations accounted for just 18 percent of the university's budget.

The shift also exists at Oklahoma State University, where state appropriations accounted for 42.6 percent of the university's budget in 1980 — by far the largest share. Last year at OSU, state appropriations made up about 21 percent of the university's budget, as did tuition and fees.

State set goal in 2011

The initiative plays into a larger conversation about college completion that's been under way in Oklahoma and nationwide. Last year, Gov. Mary Fallin and Glen Johnson, chancellor of the Oklahoma Higher Education System, called for an additional 20,400 degrees and certificates awarded in Oklahoma over the next 12 years.

In a statement, Johnson said the new initiative fits well with that ongoing effort.

“We look forward to working with our new partners as we accelerate our efforts to focus on readiness, transform remediation, build bridges to certificates and degrees, enhance adult degree completion, and reward progress and performance,” he said.

Because Fallin's completion effort already has seen some success in the state, the new initiative is a natural extension, said John Feaver, president of the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, one of the universities that signed on to the initiative.

“I don't know that there is a great deal of difference,” Feaver said.

Feaver said he's pleased to see the system focusing on the number of college graduates it produces. But he said he's also concerned that, in focusing on the quantity of degrees, the state puts itself at risk of losing track of the quality of education it provides.

Even as the state commits itself to producing more graduates, Feaver said, universities must keep in mind the needs of students and the state's workforce.