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May 14, 2004 :: Oklahoma’s College Graduate Rate Continues to Improve

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Oklahoma higher education is making steady progress improving the percentage of residents with a bachelor’s or more advanced degree.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released the 2002 American Community Survey, providing a yearly update on a wide variety of social measures. The survey showed that 20.7 percent of Oklahomans have at least a bachelor’s degree. This reflects a steady increase from the 20.4 percent reported for 2001, 20.2 percent for 2000 and the baseline of 20.1 percent in 1996. Oklahoma now ranks 43rd in the country, compared with 47th last year, which includes the District of Columbia.

Officials with the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education attributed the positive trend to several factors that are all part of the overall Brain Gain 2010 strategies. These include increasing college enrollment, enhancing student preparation, expanding access to student financial aid, promoting academic efficiencies, making credit transfers more streamlined and providing financial incentives to institutions for improving graduation, retention and other measures.

Chancellor Paul Risser was encouraged by the continued improvement.

“This survey confirms that progress is being made,” said Risser. “Everyone involved understands that more college graduates mean an improved economy and a stronger state. We are on the right track but need to continue to work hard to increase the number of graduates in Oklahoma.”

This news is just the latest in a steady stream of positive indications about the health of higher education in Oklahoma. More students are taking the ACT test for college entry; the state system has seen record enrollment the last two semesters; and an estimated 28,000 graduates received degrees this spring – another record.

And, recent studies show that most of these graduates will probably stay and work in Oklahoma. Seventy-nine percent of students with bachelor degrees and 87 percent with associate degrees remain and are working in the state a year after graduation. In addition, 45 percent of our out-of-state students stay and contribute to the economy. College graduates earn more and pay taxes on those earnings. They are less likely to need expensive social services during their lifetimes and often serve important roles in our communities.

States with lower graduate rates than Oklahoma were Alabama, 20.6 percent; Indiana, 20.6 percent; Louisiana, 20.4 percent; Arkansas, 19.4 percent; Kentucky, 18.8 percent; Nevada, 18.6 percent; Mississippi, 17.7 percent; and West Virginia, 16.1 percent.