MARCH 16, 2006

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Northeastern State to lead new statewide degree program for adults

The Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education recently announced that Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, will serve as the lead institution for a new statewide accelerated degree program tailored for working adults.

NSU, which also has campuses in Broken Arrow and Muskogee, was designated the lead institution for the soon-to-be-named Adult Degree Completion Program. Through the program, working adults can earn a bachelor's degree in as little as 18 months.

In order for individuals to qualify for the new program, they must have already attended college and successfully completed at least 72 credit hours. Officials expect to launch the program in January 2007.

"We are pleased that Northeastern is willing to take on such an important leadership role for this program that we believe will have a significant impact in our state," Chancellor Paul Risser said. "NSU faculty and staff have readily demonstrated that they can successfully work with other campuses to develop and implement a high-quality, rigorous adult degree program."

Risser said that recent research of students who attended Oklahoma colleges during the last 10 years revealed that more than 69,000 former students currently qualify for the degree completion program. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that more than 334,000 Oklahomans over the age of 25 have more than a year of college, but not a baccalaureate degree.

"The potential is certainly there. The key thing we must do is to convince those individuals that returning to college and finishing their degrees would enhance their quality of life. And, at the same time, they would be helping to strengthen Oklahoma's economy. It's definitely a win-win situation for everybody," Risser said.

As the lead institution for the Adult Degree Completion Program, NSU will coordinate and organize the program, which includes working with faculty across the state to develop the core curriculum. Participating universities will provide students with multiple learning environments, such as face-to-face classes, Web-based resources and activities, individual and group projects, capstone achievements, and recognition of prior learning, all of which will be aimed at helping students complete their degrees.

A recognized leader in Oklahoma higher education, Northeastern was one of the first universities to go online with its nursing degree program, provides the state's only four-year certified financial planner program, recently added what is believed to be the nation's only degree in a Native language (Cherokee Education), and offers Oklahoma's only doctoral program in Optometry.

In addition, NSU demonstrated leadership in the area of alternative degree opportunities for students in 2002, when the institution introduced the innovative bachelor of general studies degree program. Students who have accumulated college credit hours but have not yet declared a major can work with advisors to tailor a degree plan to suit their needs.

"The State Regents' Adult Degree Completion Program fits with Northeastern's mission to make educational goals a reality for thousands of Oklahomans who otherwise might not have the opportunity to return to the classroom," said NSU President Larry Williams. "While it's truly a monumental task, we at Northeastern are honored and stand ready to lead the state in the administration of this landmark educational program. As Oklahoma's premier regional university, NSU looks forward to working with our peer institutions as we do our part to ensure Oklahoma's adult learners achieve their education goals."

State Regents' Chair Cheryl P. Hunter said the State Regents and university officials began discussing the creation of an accelerated degree program for working adults more than a year ago. It later became one of five goal-oriented projects in the State Regents' 2005 Public Agenda for Higher Education and is currently part of their public agenda for 2006.

"The Adult Degree Completion Program can help the thousands of Oklahomans who are so close to earning a bachelor's degree," Hunter said. "Accelerated degree programs certainly aren't new to Oklahoma, but this program will provide adults with a flexible and affordable alternative. They will also receive instruction from very knowledgeable and talented faculty from our own State System universities."