In 2010, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin called for an additional 20,400 degrees and certificates awarded in Oklahoma by the end of 2023. That goal is a part of Complete College America, a nationwide initiative designed to boost college completion.
That figure includes not only degrees awarded at public colleges and universities, but also degrees granted at private institutions and professional certifications from CareerTech centers.
Last year, officials announced public colleges and universities alone had awarded more than 1,900 more graduates during the 2011-12 academic year than during the previous year, surpassing the goal of 1,700 new degrees and certificates for public and private colleges and CareerTech centers.
Although the current initiative ends in 2023, Johnson said he expects degree completion will be an ongoing priority even after that date. As Oklahoma’s economy progresses, the need for workers with college degrees will continue to grow, particularly in areas like allied health, engineering, aerospace and engineering, he said.
For Oklahoma’s economy to be able to compete in those fields, Johnson said, it’s important that the state has a well-qualified work force. And that means graduating more of its students from college — an area in which the state currently lags behind the nation overall.
“Our goal is not just to reach the national average. We want to exceed the national average,” he said. “I see degree completion being a major issue.”