At their meeting Thursday, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education voted to extend the current moratorium on institutional function change and mission expansion, deferring consideration of any institutional requests through June 30, 2020. The revised timeline will coincide with completion of campus fiscal reviews and long-term viability assessments currently underway.
As recommended by the Task Force on the Future of Higher Education and in partnership with Huron Consulting, the State Regents are currently in the process of conducting fiscal reviews and long-term viability assessments of all 25 state system colleges and universities. It is anticipated that these fiscal and viability assessments will be concluded by June 30, 2020.
“Several recommendations of the Task Force on the Future of Higher Education focus on the value and efficiency of academic credentials and increased institutional collaboration in various areas, including degree programs,” said State Regents’ Chair Jay Helm. “In light of the potential impacts of pending fiscal and viability reviews on campus degree offerings, the State Regents are extending the moratorium on considering function change and mission expansion requests through June 2020, when those reviews are expected to be completed.”
In May 2018, the State Regents approved a moratorium on consideration of potential changes in college and university function and mission through June 30, 2019. At their Jan. 24, 2019 meeting, the State Regents accepted the recommendations of the Function Change and Mission Expansion Subcommittee, which was formed to develop recommendations and action items related to institutional requests for function change and/or mission expansion.
“The State Regents’ Function Change and Mission Expansion Subcommittee reviewed national practices among all institutional tiers in defining institutional function and mission,” said State Regent and Chair of the Function Change and Mission Expansion Subcommittee Ronald H. White. “The subcommittee’s work provides guidelines that further strengthen higher education delivery and enhance transparency.”
Under the revised policy, institutions have the opportunity to request an exception to operate outside the scope of their function as defined by the State Regents for specific purposes, such as unmet workforce needs in the service area. The rigorous process includes a two-tier review analyzing the viability and impact of the proposed function exception and a report from the governing board regarding the exception request.
“The comprehensive process established by the Function Change and Mission Expansion Subcommittee will allow the State Regents to evaluate institutional requests for function and mission modification in the context of both national higher education trends and the recommendations of the Task Force on the Future of Higher Education,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “Extending the moratorium on considering campus function and mission change requests to accommodate the timeline of the institutional fiscal and viability reviews will further inform the State Regents’ strategic decision-making.”
Function change requests can create new levels of instruction offered by institutions, such as authorizing a community college to offer a bachelor’s degree or a regional university to offer a doctoral degree. Function changes also impact the associated costs for such instruction and related expenses. Mission expansion requests can increase the breadth of academic programs offered by institutions within their established function, such as adding a graduate or associate degree program at a university that historically offers only bachelor’s degrees. In both scenarios, institutions are required to fully explore collaborative opportunities with institutions already holding the requisite function and mission in their service area.
Formed in March 2017, the Task Force on the Future of Higher Education examined all aspects of system operations, including academic models, online education, structure, fiscal services and operational efficiencies, workforce development, and information technology. The Task Force unanimously approved its Report on the Future of Higher Education at its Jan. 31, 2018 meeting, and the State Regents subsequently accepted the Task Force report and recommendations at their Feb. 1, 2018 meeting.
Four State Regents served on the Function Change and Mission Expansion Subcommittee. Regent Ronald H. White served as chair of the subcommittee, and Regent Joseph L. Parker Jr. served as vice chair. Regent Jay Helm, current chair of the State Regents, and Regent Jeff Hickman, Academic Affairs Committee chair, also served on the subcommittee. In addition to the four State Regents, nine campus presidents served as voting members of the subcommittee, and several chief academic officers from state system institutions served as non-voting academic resource members to share their knowledge and expertise with the subcommittee.
The State Regents’ revised Functions of Public Institutions policy is available online at okhighered.org/state-system/policy-procedures/part3. The report and recommendations of the Task Force on the Future of Higher Education can be accessed online at okhighered.org/future.