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December 6, 2017 - State Regents’ Task Force on the Future of Oklahoma Higher Education Approves Subcommittee Recommendations

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The State Regents' Task Force on the Future of Higher Education considered recommendations from the task force’s four subcommittees during its meeting today in Oklahoma City. The task force, which was formed by the State Regents in March 2017, has examined every aspect of system operations, including academic models, online education, structure, fiscal services and operational efficiencies, workforce development, and information technology during the past 10 months.

“Maintaining accessibility and affordability remains the State Regents’ highest priority,” said State Regents Chair Ronald White, M.D. “We are mindful that Oklahoma’s economic prospects depend on our state colleges and universities producing more college-degreed and trained employees. Given the harsh economic realities of the precipitous decline in state support for state system institutions over the past three years, we must consider ideas to optimize performance and boost productivity.  Our 68 member task force tackled the charge head-on, reviewing our governance and operational structure, administrative practices, and productivity relative to new academic innovations and emerging technologies.”

The System Structure Subcommittee reviewed institutional governance models, missions, and geographic service regions. Subcommittee chair Dan Little, Little Law Firm, presented the subcommittee’s recommendations, which focus on streamlining academics, student services, and administration through consolidation of institutional governing boards. The proposed recommendation allows institutions to voluntarily enter into mergers/partnerships until June 30, 2019, after which the State Regents will recommend mergers for remaining institutions. The task force voted to approve the subcommittee recommendations.

The College Degree Completion and Workforce Development Initiative 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 chair Dr. Thomas K. McKeon, President Emeritus of Tulsa Community College, presented the subcommittee’s recommendations, which 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 task force voted to approve the subcommittee recommendations.

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 co-chairs President Don Betz, University of Central Oklahoma, and Ken Parker, President, and CEO of NextThought, presented the subcommittee’s recommendations, which focus on the design and implementation of micro-degrees/micro-credentials 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 task force voted to approve the subcommittee recommendations.

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 chair Bruce Benbrook, Chairman of Stock Exchange Bank, presented the subcommittee’s recommendations, which 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. The task force voted to approve the subcommittee recommendations.

“Oklahoma needs more college graduates to remain economically competitive in the years to come,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “As we discovered during this comprehensive self-examination of our higher education system, the time is right to reconsider and rethink our entire public higher education structure. We have taken a hard look at our traditional approaches and practices. At times, it was uncomfortable as we considered whether our structure, governance, programs, and strategies properly align with the incredible pace of the change happening in both education and business. The task force did its job, and specific transformational actions have been put forth to optimize performance, enhance innovation, increase productivity and manage costs through gains in administrative efficiencies.”

Johnson concluded by complimenting task force members for their participation in the process.  “Every member of the task force willingly sacrificed their time, talent and energy to this all-important assignment,” he said. “We are indebted to each one of the members and very grateful to them.”

During the meeting, Dr. William “Brit” Kirwan, lead advisor to the task force, 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, praised the task force subcommittees for their diligence in addressing a wide cross-section of complex issues to position the state system for continued success in these fiscally challenging circumstances.

A detailed report on the task force recommendations will be presented to the task force at the January 31 meeting, and to the State Regents for acceptance at their Feb. 1, 2018 meeting.