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february 14, 2017 - Students, Higher Education Representatives Gather at State Capitol for Higher Education Day

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More than 300 students, faculty and representatives from Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities gathered at the state Capitol Tuesday to promote the value and importance of higher education in the state.

Speakers included Chancellor Glen D. Johnson; Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb; Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz; Rep. Jon Echols, Majority Floor Leader; and President Randy Beutler, chair, State System Council of Presidents.

“Higher Education Day affords students and campus representatives an opportunity to meet with their legislators and make the case that investing in higher education must be a top state priority,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “Despite historic budget cuts to higher education in FY 2017, our state system of higher education remains committed to increasing college degree and certificate attainment, which strengthens Oklahoma’s economy and workforce.”

Four students also spoke at the event. Elida Esquivel, Oklahoma Panhandle State University; Jeston Bennett, Seminole State College; Jesse Belvin, Oklahoma State University; and Faith Harl, Tulsa Community College told attendees how they have benefitted from higher education and how attending one of Oklahoma’s public college and universities has impacted their lives.

For FY 2018, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education have requested $957.9 million. Strengthening Oklahoma’s workforce pipeline through the Complete College America degree and certificate completion plan continues to be the state system of higher education’s top priority. The State Regents are requesting $122.7 million for degree completion programs and initiatives. This investment will provide state colleges and universities funding to meet instruction and academic enterprise requirements and for institutional scholarships.

Increased financial aid funding will also be a priority for the State Regents in the upcoming legislative session. The State Regents are seeking $12.7 million to restore scholarship programs and fully fund the concurrent enrollment program, which provides tuition waivers to high school seniors who enroll in college coursework during their senior year.

The State Regents are seeking $1.1 million to restore shared service programs and $9.6 million for debt service obligations related to the 2005 higher education capital bond issue.

Another area of focus during the legislative session will be maintaining current law regarding weapons on higher education campuses. Oklahoma higher education does not oppose the Second Amendment or gun ownership. Under current law, campus presidents have the discretion to grant exceptions to the weapons ban when an exception is warranted. The State Regents and the presidents of all 25 state system institutions strongly believe that there is no scenario where expanding authorization to carry weapons on higher education campuses does anything other than create a more dangerous environment for our students, faculty, staff and visitors.

The State Regents will also continue efforts to preserve the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship as an access program. Recognized by many as America’s best college access program, Oklahoma’s Promise is considered a model that combines emphases on academic preparation and financial support for college. More than 75,000 students have earned college tuition scholarships through Oklahoma’s Promise since the program’s inception in 1992.

Cutline: Student speakers shared the positive impact higher education has made in their lives during Higher Education Day at the Capitol on Feb. 14, 2017. Pictured, left to right, are Tulsa Community College student Faith Harl, Oklahoma State University student Jesse Belvin, Chancellor Glen D. Johnson, Oklahoma Panhandle State University student Elida Esquivel and Seminole State College student Jeston Bennett.