Helping students better prepare for the global economy is among the goals for 2014 identified by the Oklahoma State System for Higher Education.
That goes hand-in-hand with goals to enhance access to quality public higher education and to increase the number of college graduates, Chancellor Glen Johnson said Wednesday during a meeting of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.
College access and success are vital because 62 percent of jobs in Oklahoma by 2020 will require at least some postsecondary education — from a one-year certificate to a master's degree and beyond — said Tony Hutchison, the system's vice chancellor for strategic planning, analysis, workforce and economic development.
Hutchison said data from a Georgetown University report on workforce needs project 668,000 jobs openings in Oklahoma this decade. These are both new jobs and openings due to workers retiring.
Occupations in the STEM disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — will grow by 19 percent, according to the data, with 12,000 openings for applicants who have a bachelor's degree or higher, and 10,000 openings for those with an associate degree or lower.
Jobs in health care professional and technical occupations will grow by 22 percent — 32,000 for those with an associate degree or above; 7,000 for those with some college but no degree; and 2,000 with a high school diploma, the report shows.
Making college accessible to more students is not a goal only in Oklahoma.
In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Barack Obama said 150 universities, businesses and nonprofits have made concrete commitments to reduce inequality in access to higher education and to help students go to college and succeed.
Expanding students' access
Hollye Hunt, the system's associate vice chancellor for governmental relations, told the regents Wednesday that Obama challenged higher education officials earlier this month to expand access so any student who has the ability can go to college.
Hunt was among about 140 education officials from across the country who met with Obama on Jan. 16 at a College Opportunity Summit, where she shared information about the Oklahoma's Promise program and the summer academies. The programs encourage students as early as eighth grade to prepare for college and explore career choices.
Chancellor Johnson said Oklahoma was invited to take part in the summit because of its participation in Complete College America, a national nonprofit that works with states to significantly increase the number of Americans with quality career certificates or college degrees.
Complete College America officials say Oklahoma has the best plan of the 34 participating states, Johnson said.