Recent census figures show Oklahoma higher education is making some headway in meeting its Brain Gain 2010 goal of increasing the number of college graduates in the state, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education learned today.
During their regularly scheduled meeting in Oklahoma City, higher education officials provided State Regents with recently released 2000 U.S. Census figures which indicate that within the last decade, the number of Oklahomans earning associate degrees improved by four-tenths of a percentage point -- from 5.0 percent in 1990 to 5.4 percent in 2000. These figures compare to just a one-tenth of a percentage-point improvement nationally during that same period -- 6.2 percent to 6.3 percent. State Regents hope to exceed the nationally projected population rates for associate degree holders by 2010.
The census data also reveals, however, that Oklahoma needs to work harder at producing, retaining and attracting more graduates with bachelor's degrees. Census data shows that although Oklahoma's population of bachelor degree holders has improved by 2.5 percentage points -- from 17.8 percent in 1990 to 20.3 percent in 2000 -- the state is still losing ground compared to the rest of the nation, which posted an increase of 4.1 percentage points. In 1990, 20.3 percent of Americans held bachelor's degrees, but by 2000 that figure had increased to 24.4 percent. Oklahoma higher education's goal for 2010 is 28 percent.
"These latest census figures demonstrate that we are progressing in our economic development efforts to attract and produce more college graduates in Oklahoma. More needs to be done, however, if we expect to meet the national average by the year 2010," Chancellor Hans Brisch said, noting that data from the 2000 census was gathered approximately one year after the State Regents launched the Brain Gain 2010 initiative in January 1999.
"Reaching the Brain Gain 2010 goal is critical for Oklahoma if we hope to have the intellectual capital necessary to compete successfully in this global society. To see these goals come to fruition, the plan needs the continued and full support of higher education, K-12 and career technology, as well as local and state officials," Brisch said.
State higher education officials have implemented several key strategies designed to meet Brain Gain 2010 goals, most notably enhancing the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP) by increasing the minimum family income from $32,000 to $50,000. Students who enroll in OHLAP in the eighth, ninth or 10th grade; maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average in 17 core courses; stay away from drugs and alcohol; and refrain from delinquent acts will receive free tuition at any Oklahoma public college or university. The program will also cover a portion of the tuition at accredited private institutions or select courses at career technology centers.
Oklahoma's colleges and universities have also made it easier for students to get their degrees quicker and to improve access within the state system by adding more transferable courses each year. Currently, there are 4,926 transferable courses, which span 132 subject areas.
"We all have a vested interest in our state and how it competes in the marketplace," said State Regents' Chairman Joe Mayer. "By the end of this decade, if we can produce, retain and attract the number of quality graduates in Oklahoma that we have targeted, then we are confident our state will be able to better attract and support business and industry that require a highly skilled, educated workforce."
In related action today, the State Regents also approved a Brain Gain performance funding policy that will allocate $2.4 million to colleges and universities to reward Brain Gain efforts that improve retention and graduation rates and the number of degrees conferred at each institution. Each of the 25 state colleges and universities, as well as Oklahoma State University's technical branches in Oklahoma City and Okmulgee, will receive funding based on these performance indicators.