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Chancellor's Column - February 2004  

Higher Ed’s Open Book

One of the things I like best about my fellow Oklahomans is that we are willing to make public investments when we believe they will pay off in the future. Right now, for example, about 170,000 students are attending Oklahoma’s public higher education institutions to receive the kind of education they will need to help our state in the future, and the majority of them will stay in our state. All of us help make that education possible because we believe it is the right thing to do.

Another thing about Oklahomans – we want to make sure we get our money’s worth.

Well, I’m proud to tell you that when it comes to higher education, you do get value for your investment.

Oklahoma’s public institutions are accountable, using many different methods that have been developed over the years to be certain that our students get the education they need and that our state gets the results it wants from its investment in higher education.

The system isn’t perfect, of course, but when problems do occur, we deal with them promptly, assisted by the policies and procedures that have been established over the years. In fact, our outstanding record of accountability is a model that sets us apart from many others in the nation.

Since 1991, each public institution has measured the results of their instruction. This includes post-graduate job placement, program outcomes and student satisfaction. Some of these and other factors, such as retention and graduation, are considered in a financial incentive program for institutions called performance funding. These funds go to public colleges and universities who meet the standards that promote the goals of the Brain Gain 2010 initiative to increase the percentage of Oklahoma’s population who have degrees.

We compile information from these and other reports to prepare a biennial system report card that has been recognized nationally for being comprehensive, containing national benchmarks, and setting goals. The next report card is due out later this year.

Oklahoma’s track record for accountability led us to be chosen as one of five states who are participating in the National Forum on College-Level Learning pilot project to assess learning outcomes. Most of the public and four of the private Oklahoma higher education institutions administered a test to determine what students have learned prior to graduation. The universities also surveyed alumni on the impact of their college educations after graduation.

All of us are entitled to know that our public institutions are providing the services they promise and that they are using resources wisely. Oklahoma’s higher education system takes that expectation for accountability seriously.