JANUARY 19, 2005

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State Regents look ahead to future with new public agenda

Building a nationally competitive system of colleges and universities in Oklahoma is the goal behind the adoption of a new public agenda for higher education, state officials announced recently.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education say Oklahoma’s Public Agenda for Higher Education provides a strategic direction for the coming year and is driven by what is most needed in Oklahoma and what higher education can contribute to those needs.

“If we are to create a better future for our children, we must take the necessary steps to help get them there,” Chancellor Paul G. Risser said. “This public agenda is a powerful step in that direction. It focuses on efficiency, affordability and accountability.”

Risser said that the State Regents based their public agenda on three facts:

• Better-prepared high school students are better prepared for college success.

• A college education enhances quality of life and gives people a chance for better jobs and more financial security.

• A college-educated workforce, focused research and community development enhance quality of life and strengthen Oklahoma’s economy for its citizens.

To reach these goals, the State Regents have directed staff to work with the individual colleges and universities on five goal-oriented projects during the coming year:

• Create and implement a Web-based, student information portal.

• Implement an accelerated, adult degree-completion program.

• Implement more powerful technical-education programs through cooperative alliances with CareerTech.

• Increase higher education’s research capacity and assist in implementing the EDGE (Economic Development Generating Excellence) Research Endowment.

• Develop academic and training programs based on Oklahoma’s regional workforce needs.

A major part of Oklahoma’s Public Agenda for Higher Education is the State Regents’ 2005 legislative agenda, Risser said.

The legislative agenda has three priorities. The first is for state lawmakers to approve a $500 million capital bond for higher education. Risser said Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities have not had a major statewide bond issue since 1992 and are finding it difficult to meet the needs of a growing student population.

“We have seen approximately 28,000 more students on our campuses since 1992. The combination of record enrollments, building repairs and inadequate classroom space is taking its toll,” Risser said.

The second legislative priority is to increase higher education’s state appropriations to a level comparable to FY2002, when dramatic cuts were made.

A third priority for the State Regents is for the legislature to find a dedicated funding source for the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP), the state scholarship program that provides free college tuition to high school seniors from low- to middle-income families who meet certain academic and behavior requirements.

“OHLAP is a life-changer for many students,” Risser said. “The current funding will not meet the needs of the students in the pipeline. So that we may keep our promise to these students, a dedicated revenue stream needs to be identified soon.”

In the past, the State Regents have approved two-year work plans to provide a strategic direction for the state system. Adoption of a public agenda for higher education now provides the public and all higher education constituencies an opportunity to be involved in the development of specific plans, practices and policy.

Contact: Ben Hardcastle, 1.405.225.9346