Following months of discussion and analysis, the State Regents’ Task Force on the Future of Higher Education unanimously approved its Report on the Future of Higher Education, which outlines the task force’s assessment process and recommendations to strengthen Oklahoma public higher education. Formed by the State Regents in March 2017, the task force examined system operations, including academic models, online education, structure, fiscal services and operational efficiencies, workforce development, and information technology. Task force members approved recommendations from the four subcommittees at the Dec. 6, 2017 meeting.

“Today, the Task Force on the Future of Higher Education completed its task to evaluate the productivity, structure, and performance of the state system of higher education,” said State Regents Chair and Task Force Chair Ronald White, M.D. “The task force identified steps to boost innovation, embrace emerging technologies, and implement administrative efficiencies to maximize limited resources throughout the system. We deeply appreciate the many perspectives and ideas shared by task force members over the past nine months and the time these members committed to this important endeavor.”

The System Structure Subcommittee reviewed institutional governance models, missions, and geographic service regions. Subcommittee recommendations focus on streamlining academics, student services, and administration through consolidation of institutional governing boards.

The College Degree Completion and Workforce Development Initiatives Subcommittee reviewed current college degree completion initiatives and developed recommendations to increase college degree completion rates and align academic programs to meet current and future workforce needs. Subcommittee recommendations focus on implementing predictive analytics to streamline administrative processes and strengthen student support services; expediting the approval process for workforce-oriented programs; accelerating and scaling proven degree completion strategies; fully funding the concurrent enrollment program; and developing a course equivalency matrix specifically designed for student veterans and active duty military.

The Academic Program Innovations and Online Education Subcommittee reviewed best practices in academic program delivery and web-based education and developed recommendations to promote innovative, collaborative academic programming and scale online education in Oklahoma. Subcommittee recommendations focus on the design and implementation of microdegrees/microcredentials and competency-based education; expanding public-private partnerships to address academic and non-academic student needs; and development of a systemwide delivery model for online education and best practices in online instruction.

The Fiscal Solutions, Efficiencies, Affordability, and Technology Subcommittee reviewed system resource allocation, revenue trends and projections, alternative sources of revenue, and capacity for improving operational efficiencies through institutional collaboration and technology. Subcommittee recommendations focus on administrative consolidation; establishing fiscal viability reviews for each institution, branch campus, and campus site; and coordinated purchasing of technology products and services across the state system.

“Higher education is more important to Oklahoma’s future than it has ever been,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “Increasing the number of college graduates in our state is essential to building a globally competitive workforce and a strong state economy. We remain committed to accessibility, affordability, and academic quality and to increasing degree completion in our state system of higher education. The task force has successfully translated diverse viewpoints into a set of very specific recommendations. These recommendations, which merit serious consideration by the Legislature, will guide our efforts to continue advancing higher education in this fiscally challenging environment.”

“Throughout this extensive process, task force members tackled cutting-edge issues faced by colleges and universities across the country,” said Dr. William “Brit” Kirwan, lead advisor to the task force and Senior Fellow with the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, Chancellor Emeritus of the University System of Maryland, and past president of The Ohio State University. “This report reflects many significant, meaningful recommendations to position Oklahoma at the forefront nationally among systems of higher education.”

The task force report will be presented to the State Regents for acceptance at their Feb. 1, 2018 meeting.