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April 23, 2013 - Oklahoma's Private Higher Education Institutions Contribute to Increase in Degrees

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OICU, Oklahoma Independent Colleges and UniversitiesIn concert with public higher education’s commitment to produce more college graduates, Oklahoma’s private colleges and universities have contributed to pushing the state well past its Complete College America goal for the first year.

Preliminary data show that private colleges and universities in Oklahoma awarded 5,474 degrees and certificates during the 2011-12 academic year. This is an increase of 1,011, or nearly 23 percent, more degrees and certificates conferred than in 2010-11. Combined with Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities, the number of degrees and certificates awarded increased by 2,945, surpassing the state’s annual goal of 1,700. Oklahoma’s Complete College America efforts are designed to ensure production of a highly skilled, college-educated workforce to attract and retain good jobs and help grow the state’s economy.

According to Dr. Ed Huckeby, president of Southwestern Christian University and chair of the Oklahoma Independent Colleges and Universities Council of Presidents, "Members of the OICU are pleased to collaborate with the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the state's public institutions to achieve the established goals of Oklahoma's Complete College America initiative. Producing a larger pool of high-quality graduates is an important common objective which will benefit our state and nation."

Oklahoma is considered a national model with respect to the comprehensive way our state leaders have embraced the goals of the Complete College America initiative. With a state focus on promoting college readiness, transforming remediation, strengthening pathways to certificates and degrees, expanding adult degree completion efforts, and rewarding progress and completion, Oklahoma is working toward a 67 percent increase in the annual number of degrees and certificates conferred by 2023.

"This achievement is another example of how the private and public sectors work in concert for positive results. We appreciate all of higher education helping ensure we have the talented workforce to help power Oklahoma's strong economy," said Dave Lopez, secretary of commerce and tourism.

Focus on this crucial effort continues despite four years of reduced appropriations in a time of rapidly increasing enrollments at colleges and universities.

“These results in year one of the Complete College America initiative have more than exceeded our expectations,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “The first year was very successful, but we also realize that each succeeding year will be more challenging as we strive to meet our 12-year degree completion goal. We will continue working with Governor Fallin, our legislature and the business community to make the case for the additional financial support needed to sustain our success in this important initiative.”

Established in 2009, Complete College America is a national nonprofit organization working to significantly increase the number of Americans with a college degree. The organization focuses on state policy change and building consensus among state leaders, higher education and the national education policy community. Oklahoma is a member of the Complete College America Alliance of States and has adopted the National Governors Association Complete to Compete principles as part of a unified economic policy initiative that includes the governor’s office, higher education, and business and industry.