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USAO president: Focus on quality seldom leads to troubling results

BY JOHN FEAVER Published: July 20, 2013

As reported in “Oklahoma schools fare well in new federal college cost data” (News, July 7), tuition and mandatory fee increases for fiscal year 2014 at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma leaves the college with one of the lowest net prices in the nation. The net price figure is based upon not only tuition and mandatory fees but all other add-on fees as well. One of the reasons USAO is such a bargain is that its add-on fees are minimal.

Recognition for being cost-efficient is gratifying. Nevertheless, as happens often in discussions about higher education in Oklahoma, there's virtually no mention of the quality or the value of the educational experience. Preoccupation with numbers of students and numbers of degrees tends to dominate discourse. Producing degrees and enrolling masses of students, however, is but a part of the quality and value that Oklahoma needs.

Focusing simply on numbers rather than quality can lead to troubling results. Preoccupation with quality, however, seldom leads to troubling results.

Nationally, USAO gets significant independent and unsolicited recognition for the quality of its academic programs. USAO is the only college in Oklahoma (and one of only 21 in the nation) to receive an “A” rating for the quality of its core curriculum by the prestigious American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine ranks USAO in its top 100 public colleges and universities for cost and quality. The Washington Monthly rates USAO's national liberal arts status third in the nation in promoting upward social mobility.

National recognition is conferred upon unusual quality. USAO has never wavered from the goal of quality and value. Our freshman English courses are taught exclusively by holders of the Ph.D. in sections of 20 or fewer students. More than 90 percent of our full-time teaching faculty have terminal degrees in their fields.

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