Encouraging more Oklahoma college students to help younger students gain the math and reading skills they need to succeed is the goal of a statewide initiative being undertaken by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. The State Regents have allocated $300,000 in seed money for Oklahoma public and private colleges and universities to participate in America Counts and America Reads, federal programs designed to bring more adult mentors and tutors into the nation's schools to help students in the first through ninth grades improve math and reading skills.
Under new regulations approved by the U.S. Department of Education, colleges and universities may now pay the full wages of participating college students through the Federal Work Study Program. The State Regents' funding support will enable colleges and universities to develop the training and administrative infrastructure needed to obtain the federal work study financing.
"Through these mentoring programs, college students gain an opportunity to become more active in their community by helping younger, academically at-risk students gain necessary reading and math skills. And the younger children are exposed to positive role models who can not only help them improve necessary skills, but also talk about the benefits of a college education," said Chancellor Hans Brisch. Seven institutions have requested funds for the spring to support planning and implementation of one or both of these programs at their sites. The institutions are East Central University, Ada; Cameron University, Lawton; Mid-America Bible College, Oklahoma City; Oklahoma City Community College, Oklahoma City; Murray State College, Tishomingo; Tulsa Community College, Tulsa; and Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Weatherford.
Regents noted that college and university participation has nearly doubled in the past six months since they undertook the initiative to encourage greater participation in the mentoring program and the state received a $20.5 million federal grant for the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). GEAR UP is a federal program established by Congress to better prepare students - especially those from low-income families - for college by establishing mentoring programs, providing scholarships and implementing new college preparation and awareness programs for students and parents.
Additional institutions participating in the mentorship programs include Western Oklahoma State College, Altus; Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Alva; Southern Nazarene University, Bethany; Southwestern College of Christian Ministries, Bethany; University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, Chickasha; Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Durant; University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond; Oklahoma Panhandle State University, Goodwell; and Langston University, Langston.
Other participants include Rose State College, Midwest City; University of Oklahoma, Norman; Oklahoma State University Technical Branch, Oklahoma City; Oklahoma State University Technical Branch, Okmulgee; Seminole State College, Seminole; Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee; Oklahoma State University, Stillwater; Northeastern State University, Tahlequah; Northern Oklahoma College, Tonkawa; Oral Roberts University, Tulsa; University of Tulsa, Tulsa; and Connors State College, Warner.
"We are pleased to see such strong commitment from public and private Oklahoma institutions for programs that greatly benefit our young people," said State Regents Chairman Bill W. Burgess Jr. "America Counts and America Reads strengthen the link between common and higher education and pool resources from federal, state and local sources to help students at all levels achieve their potential."
The U.S. Department of Education awarded Oklahoma with a state GEAR UP grant totaling $20.5 million in August 1999. The grant has been matched by more than $25 million from state and partner resources. With funds totaling $45.5 million, GEAR UP receives 45 percent of total funding from the federal government and 55 percent from other organizations.