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April 1, 2004 :: Survey Finds Most Oklahomans Have Positive Perceptions of Public Higher Education

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In a recent survey conducted by the Oklahoma State University Bureau of Social Research, Oklahomans’ overall perceptions about higher education and the state’s public colleges and universities are positive.

According to the annual Oklahoma Social Indicator Survey, nearly 80 percent of respondents indicated that Oklahoma’s college campuses are providing students with classes at convenient times and locations and in fields of study that most people need. They also said that the fields of computer/information technology and business are the most needed undergraduate degrees in Oklahoma.

OSU’s Bureau of Social Research conducted the survey in fall 2003, collecting information from more than 1,200 households throughout Oklahoma. The higher education questions on the survey were paid for by a Quality Initiative Grant from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

“This survey is part of the State Regents’ 2003-2004 workplan,” Chancellor Paul G. Risser said. “We will use the information gathered in the survey as a tool to help our colleges and universities and students to succeed. Also, we are going to use the information to create and implement a statewide marketing plan that will encourage more students of all ages to attend college.”

The survey focused on five areas: 1) the level of education needed in Oklahoma, 2) affordability of Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities, 3) place, time and offerings of classes, 4) factors influencing college attendance and 5) admissions and financial aid.

More than two-thirds of those surveyed indicated that Oklahomans need a college degree, while just 3 percent felt no postsecondary education is necessary.

On affordability, two-thirds of respondents agreed that Oklahoma public colleges and universities are affordable; however, most also indicated that affordability is the reason why some do not attend Oklahoma’s public institutions. Not being academically prepared for college was a close second.

Four out of five Oklahomans said that Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities offer classes that are convenient in both time and place and in fields of study that most people need. The responses were consistent from respondents in both rural and urban areas.

Interviewers also asked Oklahomans if they knew how to apply for admission to an Oklahoma public college or university and for financial aid. About two-thirds indicated that they did, but more than 80 percent surveyed said they had never heard of the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP).

“It’s disappointing to see how many Oklahomans still don’t know anything about OHLAP. This scholarship program is a valuable asset for our state, and we must do a better job of telling students and parents about it. OHLAP is an essential ingredient to Oklahoma’s student and economic success,” Risser said.

OHLAP is a state scholarship program administered by the State Regents that provides free tuition scholarships to high school students with a family income of less than $50,000 a year and who make a least a 2.5 grade point average in 15 high school core courses and stay out of trouble.