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Chancellor's Column - May 2004  

The Perfect Graduation Gift

This year, about 28,000 college students walked across commencement stages around the state and collected their well-earned diplomas. This projected record number of graduates covers a wide spectrum of people and personal backgrounds.

Some of the graduates are just two or four years out of high school, but the majority are older, and many worked while going to school to earn a degree. There were many different paths taken to those graduation ceremonies, and we can be proud of everyone who has worked so hard and accomplished so much.

It is traditional, of course, to give a gift to the graduate. It might be a pen and pencil set, the latest technological gadget, a briefcase or a good book. But, if you think about it, the most appropriate gift just might be a big box of thank you cards.

First, graduates should send big thank yous to their family members who helped them. It might be mom and dad who paid the bills, or it might be a brother or sister who watched the kids while a single parent attended class at night.

Then, notes should be written to the faculty members, administrators and librarians who inspired, encouraged and provided knowledge. These dedicated professionals contributed not only to the graduates’ degrees but to their lifelong contribution to society and an interest in learning.

And, graduates should remember our elected state leaders. They deserve thanks for funding higher education, especially when there are competing needs and tight budgets. They know that investing in college will contribute more to the economic and cultural environment than any other single activity. And this year, once again, Oklahoma is keeping its promise to those students enrolled in the OHLAP scholarship program by fully funding the program for another year.

But the biggest thank you should be saved for the average taxpayer. Graduates from an Oklahoma public college or university have invested thousands of hours and dollars to get their degrees. But, on average, tuition and fees cover only about one-third of the cost of higher education in Oklahoma. State appropriations make up about one-half, and a variety of other sources make up the rest.

Many people helped make it possible for our most recent graduates to have their moment of celebration, and all of us will share in the long-term benefits that these graduates will bring to the state.

Our most recent studies show that 79 percent of students with bachelor degrees and 87 percent with associate degrees stay and work 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.

So, there is much to celebrate this spring. Congratulations to all graduates and their families!