In his capacity as co-chair of the 16-state Postsecondary Education Recovery Task Force recently formed by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) in response to COVID-19, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Chancellor Glen D. Johnson has appointed four college and university presidents to represent Oklahoma on the task force. The task force is charged with addressing the challenges facing colleges, universities and students from the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Colleges and universities are coming to grips with many immediate challenges and long-term concerns, ranging from addressing the financial stress created by the pandemic to admissions and enrollment to student support, including financial aid,” said SREB president Stephen L. Pruitt. “Chancellor Johnson is the perfect leader for this task force, because of his knowledge of higher education and experience leading a diverse higher education system in Oklahoma. He has appointed four accomplished higher education leaders from Oklahoma to join him. The work of this task force is critical, because it comes at a time when a college degree is more important than ever.”

SREB invited state higher education chancellors to appoint representatives from both two- and four-year institutions to serve on the task force, along with experts from the national State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO). Johnson appointed the following individuals to represent Oklahoma on the task force:

  • President Burns Hargis, Oklahoma State University
  • Interim President Joe Harroz, University of Oklahoma
  • President John McArthur, Cameron University
  • President Jeanie Webb, Rose State College

Johnson said the task force will collaborate to address COVID-19-related challenges facing colleges, universities and their students and to encourage institutions to work together to ensure a fully systemic approach to higher education recovery in response to COVID-19. The task force will
collaborate with SREB’s new K-12 Education Recovery Task Force, bringing together leaders from all levels of education.

“Once again, states across our region are coming together to learn from each other, strengthening our expertise as we each face important decisions ahead,” said Johnson. “We must continue the work we’ve started in building education pipelines that strengthen and enhance public education across our 16-state region. I look forward to co-chairing this task force and, at the same time, collaborating with Gov. Stitt, the Legislature and other key policy leaders from our state to identify best practices and strategies to help Oklahoma’s colleges and universities respond to COVID-19.”

Some of the central issues the task force will consider include:

  • Funding and costs: How states’ colleges and universities will find the resources to endure and provide quality teaching and support for each student.
  • Safety and health: How institutions will re-open and maintain clean and safe campuses.
  • Distance learning, technology, innovation: How institutions can improve online teaching, and make broadband and technology more available to faculty, staff and students.
  • Student and faculty/staff support: How institutions will provide financial, academic, and personal support for students dealing with the crisis.

The Southern Regional Education Board works with member states to improve public education at every level, from early childhood through doctoral education. A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Atlanta, SREB was created in 1948 by Southern governors and legislatures to advance education and improve the social and economic life of the region. Member states are Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

Johnson was named chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education in January 2007 following a national search. Before assuming the role of chancellor, Johnson served as the 16th president of Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant for 10 years. He was also director of public policy and adjunct professor of law at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. Prior to his work at OU, Johnson served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1982 to 1996 and was speaker of the House from 1990 to 1996. At the time of his election as speaker, he was the youngest sitting speaker in the United States.