Non-traditional students succeed in regional universities
BY MICHAEL W. MITCHEL
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
2/22/12 at 3:45 AM
Gov. Mary Fallin's laudable initiative to increase the number of college graduates in Oklahoma by 20,000 in the next 12 years is good for business and it's good for Oklahoma. The Regional University System of Oklahoma (RUSO) is committed to doing our part to meet that challenging target by transforming lives through higher education as our universities have been doing for more than 120 years.
During the last several years, the regional universities in Oklahoma have produced almost half of the bachelor's degrees awarded in the state. This record is compounded with the master's and professional doctoral degrees that we also conferred. RUSO, which includes six out of Oklahoma's 11 regional universities, has produced almost 40 percent of all of the bachelor's degrees.
Regional graduation rates have recently been characterized by some to be low - less than 40 percent. In reality as many as 80 percent of our graduates have not been counted in these calculations of graduation rates.
According to the federal formula for calculating graduation rates of colleges and universities, a significant majority of RUSO students don't count in this measurement even after they earn their degrees.
The federal system doesn't track transfer students, part-time students, returning students, or students who enrolled in the spring semester rather than in the fall. Last year, as many as 77 percent of RUSO students earning bachelor's degrees did not count toward their university's graduation rate when using this formula.
The federal formula counts only first-time, full-time freshmen who enrolled in the fall semester - usually right after high school - and earned a degree within six years at the university where they first enrolled.
A college-educated workforce is the cornerstone of a strong economy. Our RUSO institutions pride themselves in providing access to a college degree for Oklahomans who are raising families, are working, or who dropped out and have since returned to finish their degrees.
Many RUSO students are over the age of 25, are transfers, or part-time students who are working hard to improve their lives through higher education while balancing work and families. They deserve our support because they become Oklahoma's workforce and Oklahoma's future - and they should be counted when measuring the value and contributions of our campuses at Northeastern, Southeastern, East Central, Central Oklahoma, Southwestern and Northwestern to building Oklahoma.
Michael W. Mitchel is chairman of the Board of Regents for RUSO.
Michael W. Mitchel: Many RUSO students are ... working hard to improve their lives through higher education.