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January 17, 2006 :: Priority Projects Top State Regents’ Public Agenda

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Implementation of a Web-based student information portal and an adult degree completion program are two of many projects the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education will continue as part of their 2006 public agenda for higher education.

The State Regents’ stated goal is to build a nationally competitive system of colleges and universities in Oklahoma, and Oklahoma’s Public Agenda for Higher Education provides a strategic direction. The public agenda is based on what is most needed in Oklahoma and what higher education can contribute to address those needs.

“There are three facts that help us determine the direction we want to go,” Chancellor Paul G. Risser said. “First, better-prepared high school students are more likely to be successful in college. Second, a college education enhances quality of life and gives people a chance for better jobs and more financial security. Finally, a college-educated workforce, focused research and community development improve quality of life and strengthen Oklahoma’s economy for its citizens. If we can fully achieve each of the initiatives, our state will have more college graduates and be in an excellent position to compete successfully in this knowledge-based, global economy.”

State Regents will launch part of the student information portal this spring and implement it fully in the fall. The portal, which is yet to be named, will provide students, parents, counselors and others an opportunity to access important college preparation, scholarship and career information from one location. Students will be able to take virtual tours of Oklahoma colleges and universities and apply online to as many colleges as desired without duplicating information. High school students will also be able to apply for Oklahoma’s Promise-Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP) scholarships online.

The adult degree completion program is another project the State Regents expect to launch in 2006. This initiative will provide a flexible and accelerated option for working adults who want to earn a bachelor’s degree. Participants must have completed more than two years of college work to be eligible. The program takes into account the family, work and financial obligations that older students face.

Another priority project on the State Regents’ 2006 agenda is creating more cooperative alliances between state system institutions and career technology centers. Cooperative alliances allow adults and qualified high school students from public colleges the opportunity to enroll for credit for technical courses taught at partnering technology centers that lead to an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree or college-level certificate.

Five community colleges and six technology centers have entered into cooperative alliances within the last year, with many more expected to do so in 2006. Through these alliances, education officials hope to increase the number of high school students and adults going to college and completing degrees.

Other projects on the public agenda include taking an active role in designing, promoting and implementing research opportunities, including Gov. Brad Henry’s EDGE (Economic Development Generating Excellence) endowment fund, and focusing on regional workforce development, such as supplying more and better-trained employees in key shortage areas such as nursing and allied health.

“Completion of these five initiatives this year will go a long way in solidifying Oklahoma’s position nationally,” State Regents’ Chairman Cheryl P. Hunter said. “We want to set an example for how to involve public higher education in the development of plans, practices and policies that will enhance the quality of life in Oklahoma.”