Funding sought for degree-completion programs
BY SARA PLUMMER World Staff Writer
Friday, January 11, 2013
1/11/13 at 7:59 AM
State regents are asking the state Legislature for a nearly $1.05 billion allocation for the upcoming fiscal year with the majority of new dollars going toward degree-completion programs, Chancellor Glen Johnson said.
Johnson presented the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education's legislative agenda and funding request Thursday during a luncheon at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa. In attendance were area college administrators, legislators, and city and county leaders.
The nearly $1.05 billion request is a 9.5 percent increase from last year's allocation of $955 million.
Almost two-thirds of the $90.4 million in new funds requested would go toward programs and initiatives aimed at boosting the number of students who complete their degrees, Johnson said.
In the proposed budget, $55 million would be used to add more than 600 course sections, 200 online courses, 77 faculty members and cover additional technology equipment, library materials and operational expenses in the state's public colleges and universities, as well as add $4.7 million in financial aid.
The need for more classes, faculty members and financial aid springs from the addition of more than 14,000 students on college campuses in the past four years, he said.
Although 24 percent of adults in Oklahoma have a bachelor's degree, it's still below the national average of 28.5 percent, which is why Oklahoma is a part of Complete College America, an initiative that seeks to have more people obtain degrees and certificates from four-year, two-year and career training institutions.
During the first year of the initiative, Oklahoma colleges awarded more than 1,900 degrees, surpassing its goal of 1,700 additional degrees and certificates, Johnson said, and making it a national model.
"We're very pleased with Complete College America saying we have the best plan. We're not going to be able to sustain that with flat budgets," he said, adding that more funding is needed in order to keep that momentum going.
"All the data shows that states that have high degree completion have higher per capita incomes," Johnson said. "The workforce needs college-educated workers."
Last year, the funding request was $980 million while the allocation from the Legislature was $955 million. In fiscal year 2011-12, the appropriation was $945 million while the request was $1.12 billion.
After a tuition freeze in 2009, colleges and universities have raised tuition and fees by about 5 percent in the past three years.
Johnson said it's too early to tell whether another tuition and fee increase will happen next school year or how much it could be.
"Right now we don't have any idea. We'll see what appropriation and allocation we receive," he said.
Despite the increases in the past few years, Oklahoma was still ranked seventh in college affordability by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
"We've remained very competitive," he said.
Johnson also emphasized the positive effect of Oklahoma's Promise, a state tuition scholarship program, and the negative effect that guns would have if allowed on college campuses.
"Our first response is to provide a safe campus, and weapons on campus certainly doesn't provide that," he said. "We will oppose all (legislative) efforts to change that."
Original Print Headline: Regents request funds for college-degree programs
Sara Plummer 918-581-8465
Chancellor Glen Johnson: He says he is pleased that Complete College America considers Oklahoma's plan a national model