College degree completion plan unveiled

Governor Mary Fallin and higher education officials Thursday announced a new higher education initiative to increase the number of Oklahomans who have college degrees. 

Currently, state colleges and universities annually award 30,500 degrees.  The initiative aims to increase that number 67 percent so that by 2023 Oklahoma colleges and universities will annually award 50,900 college degrees.

Addressing members of her cabinet, higher education officials and others today at the University of Central Oklahoma, the governor provided details of an approach that builds upon the Complete College America (CCA) national initiative.   

My top priority as governor is to create a business environment in Oklahoma that fosters economic growth and job creation.  Ensuring we have a highly skilled, college educated workforce is essential to attracting and retaining good jobs and investment to our state,” Fallin said.  “Today, we are officially launching our plan to significantly improve degree attainment in the state.  I look forward to working closely with Chancellor Glen Johnson, our colleges and universities and the entire CCA leadership team to increase the number of degrees awarded annually.”

Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Chancellor Glen D. Johnson said, “An increase in degrees of this magnitude will require a great deal of effort by our colleges and universities, and we are completely committed to accomplishing this goal in order to compete successfully and meet the demands of the global marketplace. This initiative will be our top priority for 2012, and we will continue working closely with our business community and our CCA leadership team in a highly collaborative manner to achieve this goal.”

Planned projects for the initiative include a statewide redesign of remedial and developmental education; a plan to reduce remediation demands in the transition from high school to college; continued development of Reach Higher, Oklahoma’s adult degree completion program; enhanced efforts to audit and bring in line with the national norm all certificates awarded through the Cooperative Alliance program with the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education; and review and revise the Brain Gain Performance Funding program.

CCA has pledged technical assistance to support project activities outlined in Oklahoma’s initial plan and will work with the CCA leadership team to identify other potential funding sources for the work.

Already, CCA is hailing Oklahoma’s approach as a “national model.”  Established in 2009, CCA is a national nonprofit organization working to significantly increase the number of Americans with a college degree.  The organization focuses on state policy change and building consensus among state leaders, higher education and the national education policy community.

Oklahoma is a member of the CCA Alliance of States and has adopted the National Governor’s Association Complete to Compete principles as part of a unified economic policy initiative that includes the governor’s office, higher education, business and industry.

“CCA has been impressed by Oklahoma’s high level of collaboration, our policy framework and long-term commitment to completion goals. We are very excited that our state will be spotlighted at the CCA Annual Conference of alliance states next month,” said Fallin.

Oklahoma’s CCA/Complete to Compete team includes Fallin; Johnson; Dave Lopez, Oklahoma secretary of commerce; Phyllis Hudecki, Oklahoma secretary of education; Complete to Compete, including members of the National Governor’s Association; and CCA, including representatives of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corp. of New York, Ford Foundation, Lumina Foundation for Education and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.