Students, faculty and staff from Northern Oklahoma College joined other institutions of the state system at the state capitol on February 14 to demonstrate the value and importance of higher education in the state.
NOC accepted a contingent of 25 students, faculty and staff from the Tonkawa, Enid and Stillwater campuses.
Speakers included Dr. Brandon Tatum, Gov. Kevin Stitt’s chief of staff; speaker Charles McCall; MP Anthony Moore; Senator Adam Pugh; Chairman of the State Regents Michael C. Turpen; and Chancellor Allison D. Garrett.
“Students, faculty and staff from Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities gathered at our state capitol today to celebrate the value of a college degree,” said Garrett. “More than half of the top 100 jobs identified by Oklahoma Works as critical to our state’s economic growth require an associate degree or higher, including the top 29 highest-paying jobs. Bachelor’s and associate’s degree holders earn 75% and 25% more, respectively, than those with only a high school degree. Investing in higher education drives economic opportunity for individual Oklahomans and attracts high-paying employers, creating vibrant communities in our state.”
While STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) bachelor’s degrees have grown by 47% over the past decade and health-related degrees by more than 26%, bottlenecks remain in these sectors. For FY 24, State Regents are requesting $26.3 million for key human resource development initiatives, including funding to expand the nursing education program and medical residency capacity to address the state’s shortage of registered nurses and physicians; supporting institutional efforts to increase enrollment and graduation in STEM subjects; and continue to provide scholarships to adult students who are about to complete a college degree or are pursuing an industry-recognized microcredential or certificate.
The State Higher Education budget request includes $23 million to fund the Oklahoma National Guard Educational Assistance Program, the Oklahoma Future Teacher Scholarship and Employment Incentive Program (“Inspired to Teach”) and the Concurrent Enrollment Tuition Waiver Program.
State Regents request $49.3 million in FY24 to fund performance-based institutional allocations to meet operational support needs; strengthening university access and academic success services for students; fund strategic collaborations, shared services, and educational resources that promote long-term efficiencies across the government system; and further investments in data analytics, digital transformation and cybersecurity. The budget request also includes capital funding for system and structural upgrades to improve campus safety and security. The State Regents are requesting an additional allocation of $9 million for FY23 to fund the Oklahoma National Guard Education Assistance Program established by the SB 1418 during the 2022 legislative session. While the annualized costs of running the program are reflected in the FY24 public higher education budget request, additional funds are required to reimburse state system institutions for costs incurred during the 2022-23 academic year.
Other priorities for the state regents in the legislature include universal completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for high school seniors, which has led to surges in college enrollments in other states, and maintaining the current gun statute in higher education campus. Higher education in Oklahoma supports the second amendment. Under current law, campus presidents have the discretion to determine who may carry guns on a college or university campus. The state regents and presidents of all 25 state system institutions strongly believe that the current campus gun law is working.
Refinements to the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program are also a priority. The State Regents’ goals include streamlining high school course requirements for scholarship eligibility, an adjustable income limit formula each year to increase flexibility for eligible students and families, and an appeals process to support students who are in special circumstances stand.
Recognized by the Southern Regional Education Board as one of the most promising scholarship programs in the country, Oklahoma’s Promise is considered a national model that combines an emphasis on academic preparation and college financial support. More than 100,000 students have received scholarships through Oklahoma’s Promise since the program began. For more information on Oklahoma’s Promise or to apply online, visit www.okpromise.org.