OKLAHOMA CITY – More than 90 percent of all Oklahoma regional university graduates stay in the state after receiving their diploma, a number greater than the Oklahoma higher education average. The Regional University System of Oklahoma recently reported this and other 2013 results at its annual legislative briefing. The event was to inform legislators and higher education officials of the cumulative efforts and impact of the state’s largest four-year system.
The Regional University System of Oklahoma is made up of six regional universities: East Central University, Northeastern State University, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, University of Central Oklahoma and 10 satellite locations.
Richard Ogden, chairman of the Board of Regents, Regional University System of Oklahoma, said the institutions fill an educational gap not provided by Oklahoma research universities or community colleges. The universities are designed to provide access to students who need to stay near their home communities or cannot attend farther away due to job, family or financial circumstances.
“Regional universities provide opportunities to the widest range of students to earn high-quality accredited four-year degrees through classroom and online instruction,” said Ogden.
“Our students become our state’s teachers and nurses, NASA engineers, rock stars, pharmacists and optometrists.”
As a member of the Regional University System of Oklahoma, Southeastern president Larry Minks believes his school has a lot to offer its students.
“We pride ourselves on offering a quality education at an affordable cost,’’ he said. “Our students also experience one-on-one instruction from their professors. We have a number of innovative programs in place to meet the needs of our students, including a new agreement with American Eagle Airlines to assist our aviation students. And with several programs already implemented to aid our Native American students, we have become a national leader in producing Native American graduates.’’
Southeastern holds a number of specialty accreditations, including The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (John Massey School of Business) and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs.
Nearly 40 percent of all Oklahoma college graduates graduate from a regional institution. Last year the Regional University System of Oklahoma graduate total was 7,058, up 644 graduates from the previous year.
In the briefing Ogden pointed to the fact that regional institutions performed significantly better than the national average in most cost categories. In 2013, the average annual cost of attendance at an Oklahoma regional university was nearly half the cost, $11,637 compared to $23,200 nationally as reported by CNN Money. Oklahoma regional university students leave college with 23 percent less debt than the national average and more than 40 percent of the graduates manage to leave without any debt.
One area where being less than the national average is not beneficial was in the percentage of state appropriations. Taxpayer investment in higher education in Oklahoma is 31 percent below the national average. The average national taxpayer investment per student is $6,000 compared to the Oklahoma average of $4,100 per student. The cost difference is passed on to the students, further raising the affordability barrier. Students who attend regional institutions already personally pay more than half of their total education costs.
“The highest quality of higher education still needs to be affordable, or it doesn’t serve its purpose,” said Ogden. “It is critical the Regional University System of Oklahoma regents continue to be good stewards of the money appropriated to us.”
More than 60 percent of the regional universities’ budgets are spent on instruction and research, followed by physical plant operations, 12 percent, student services, 9 percent and scholarships, 8 percent.
Ogden reported that the Regional University System of Oklahoma cost saving and efficiencies have saved taxpayers more than $47 million through energy initiatives, reduced administrative expenses and information technology savings. Costs are also offset by seeking research funding to supplement state appropriations. Last year regional university institutions received more than $33 million in grants.
The legislative briefing concluded with two regional students, Simone Goelz, University of Central Oklahoma, and Blaine Boyd, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, discussing their experiences at regional universities. Goelz, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership after more than a decade out of high school, said the Regional University System of Oklahoma is making a difference with adult learners. “With higher education comes confidence and belief in oneself to achieve goals and pursue dreams — that begins a long-term and permanent change in strengthening Oklahoma families,” said Goelz.
The Regional University System of Oklahoma governs the six regional universities: East Central University, Northeastern State University, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Southwestern Oklahoma State University and the University of Central Oklahoma. It was created on July 6, 1948. All the universities of the Regional University System are more than 100 years old. For more information about the Regional University System of Oklahoma and its graduates, visit www.ruso.edu.