Oklahoma lawmakers and higher education officials hailed an increase in degrees awarded by the state's colleges and universities as a testament to the strength of the partnership between the state higher education system and the private institutions around the state.
Oklahoma's private colleges and universities awarded 1,011 more degrees last year than they did in the 2010-11 academic year, officials from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the Oklahoma Independent Colleges and Universities announced Tuesday.
Private institutions awarded 5,474 degrees last year, according to preliminary data from the state regents.
That total represents an increase of nearly 23 percent from the previous year.
Together, Oklahoma's public and private colleges and universities awarded nearly 3,000 more degrees last year than the previous year. That total tops the state regents' annual goal of awarding 1,700 more degrees and vocational certificates.
Oklahoma higher education Chancellor Glen Johnson said the total is an encouraging result for the first year of the state's degree completion initiative, although he acknowledged the goal of 1,700 more degrees and certificates likely will be more difficult to reach in the years to come.
“Although we're gratified with our achievements in Year 1, this is a 12-year commitment,” Johnson said.
Ed Huckeby, president of Southwestern Christian University in Bethany, said private universities have a key role to play in the initiative.
Private institutions produced nearly 14 percent of the state's college graduates last year, according to state regents data.
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We are dedicated to being good partners and collaborating with the public institutions and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. We feel like this has great potential for the future.”