Students and personnel from Oklahoma’s state system institutions gathered at the state Capitol today to demonstrate the value and importance of higher education in the state.

Speakers included Governor Kevin Stitt, Speaker Charles McCall, Sen. Adam Pugh, Rep. Mark McBride, State Regents chair Jack Sherry, and Chancellor Allison D. Garrett.

‚ÄúStudents, faculty and staff from Oklahoma‚Äôs public colleges and universities came together today at our State Capitol to highlight the value of a college degree,‚ÄĚ said Garrett. ‚ÄúOver half of the top 100 occupations identified as critical for our state require an associate degree or higher, including the top 29 highest paying jobs. Investing in higher education drives economic opportunity for individual Oklahomans and strengthens the workforce pipeline for our vibrant business community.‚ÄĚ

Three students also spoke at the event. Blake Janssen, Redlands Community College; Asa Robbins, Northeastern State University; and Dante Specht, Oklahoma City Community College, shared how pursuing higher education at Oklahoma’s public college and universities has positively impacted their lives.

During the program, the following recipients of the Distinguished Service Award for Higher Education were recognized for their steadfast leadership and support of public higher education in the 2023 legislative session:

  • Sen. Chuck Hall
  • Sen. Brent Howard
  • former Sen. John Michael Montgomery
  • Sen. Adam Pugh
  • Sen. Dave Rader
  • Sen. Ally Seifried
  • Sen. Roger Thompson
  • Rep. Steve Bashore
  • Rep. Kylie Hilbert
  • former Rep. Ryan Martinez
  • Rep. Anthony Moore
  • Rep. Cyndi Munson
  • Rep. Kevin Wallace
  • Mike Jackson, former Director, Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency

‚ÄúThese legislative leaders are dedicated to advancing Oklahoma‚Äôs higher education system and the students we serve,‚ÄĚ said State Regents Chair Jack Sherry. ‚ÄúWe value our collaborative relationships with legislators and deeply appreciate their investment in our shared goal to meet current and future workforce needs and help individual Oklahomans achieve their dreams.‚ÄĚ

The State Regents are requesting $9.5 million for FY25 to fund the Inspired to Teach program and expand concurrent enrollment. Public higher education’s budget request also includes strategic investments that align with Oklahoma’s projected workforce demand in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and healthcare and focus on increasing adult degree completion. The State Regents seek $41.5 million for critical workforce development initiatives, including funds to increase enrollment and graduation in STEM disciplines, expand nursing education program and medical residency capacity to address the state’s shortage of nurses and doctors, and provide additional scholarships for adult students nearing completion of a college degree or pursuing an industry-recognized micro-credential or certificate.

The State Regents also seek $71.4 million in FY25 to fund performance-based institutional allocations to meet operational needs, address rising risk management costs, strengthen college access and academic success services for students, and fund strategic collaborations and shared services to drive long-term efficiencies across the state system. The budget request includes one-time capital funding for deferred maintenance and system and structure upgrades to enhance campus safety and cybersecurity.

Another priority for the State Regents in the current legislative session is refining Oklahoma’s Promise to reduce administrative barriers to scholarship access and participation. Strategies may include streamlining high school course requirements and developing an appeal process to assist students facing unique circumstances to ensure no qualified student is excluded.

Recognized by the Southern Regional Education Board as one of the top promise scholarship programs in the nation, Oklahoma’s Promise is considered a national model that combines emphases on academic preparation and financial support for college. More than 105,000 students have earned college tuition scholarships through Oklahoma’s Promise since the program’s inception. For more information about Oklahoma’s Promise or to apply online, visit www.okpromise.org.

Attendees of 2024 Higher Education Day at the Capitol