Governor Outlines Initiative To Boost Oklahoma College Grad Rates

Thursday, September 22nd 2011, 9:45 pm
By: News On 6

Ashli Sims, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Experts speculate by the end of this decade 60 percent of jobs will require a college education. But only a third of Oklahomans fit that bill. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin wants to change that.

Governor Fallin says college grads are the key to attracting businesses to the state. She announced an initiative Thursday to add 20,000 more over the next 12 years.

Thousands of Oklahoma students march across college graduation stages every year. But state leaders say the majority never make it.

"Oklahoma is not producing enough college graduates and that's a disadvantage to Oklahoma," Governor Fallin said.

Complete College America, a national nonprofit, estimates only a third of Oklahomans from 25 to 34 have college degrees, slightly lower than our neighbors in Texas. And substantially lower than some states in the Northeast, where half the population is college educated.

"That's not good enough. We can do better in the state of Oklahoma," Fallin said.

Governor Fallin announced a new imitative to do just that. She says it will revamp colleges' remedial courses, make transferring credits easier, align degrees with business needs, and encourage more adults to go back to school.

9/22/2011 Related Story: Oklahoma Leaders Create Plan To Boost Number Of College Graduates

"We have to have every single person in Oklahoma educated to the max. We cannot afford to leave anyone behind," said Dr. Phyllis Hudecki, Oklahoma Secretary of Education.

But many of these programs already exist. Reach Higher tries to make it easier for adults to get back in college and finish. The Oklahoma Brain Gain has been around since 1999, with the goal of boosting graduation rates.

State leaders say we need to do more, because it's our economic future that's at stake.

"Will send the message that Oklahoma is more than open for business, its people are ready to work," said Dave Lopez, Oklahoma Commerce Secretary.

Higher education leaders say time is the enemy of completion. So they might offer incentives to students who finish their degrees on time. But there's no word on how much that would cost of how we will pay for it.