Ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials say re­forms needed

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - NEWS - BY K.S. MCNUTT Staff Writer km­c­nutt@ok­la­homan.com

Ev­ery­one agrees ed­u­ca­tion be­yond high school is crit­i­cal for the in­di­vid­ual and Ok­la­homa’s econ­omy, but the fu­ture of post­sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion in the state is any­thing but cer­tain.

Na­tional trends in 2018 in­clude a big fo­cus on ca­reer and tech­nol­ogy ed­u­ca­tion, Jeremy An­der­son said at Gov. Mary Fallin’s re­cent STEM and En­trepreneur­ship Sum­mit.

“This is an area where we have seen an ex­plo­sion of new poli­cies and ac­tiv­i­ties in the states,” said An­der­son, pres­i­dent of the Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mis­sion of the States.

“It’s one of the big­gest is­sues. We’re see­ing states re­think where are we go­ing to be in­vest­ing our funds and our time and our en­ergy ... to re­ally meet the work­force needs that you are see­ing across the county.”

Ok­la­homa’s list of 100 crit­i­cal oc­cu­pa­tion in­cludes many jobs that re­quire a col­lege de­gree, such as en­gi­neer, ac­coun­tant and teacher. Jobs that re­quire a tech­ni­cal cre­den­tial are fire­fighter, truck driver, li­censed prac­ti­cal nurse, paramedic and heat­ing and cool­ing tech­ni­cians.

An­der­son said 416 ca­reer and tech­nol­ogy ed­u­ca­tion bills were in­tro­duced across the coun­try in 2018 and 117 new laws took ef­fect, in­clud­ing Ok­la­homa’s Se­nate Bill 171.

SB 171 cre­ated the work-based learn­ing pro­gram to in­crease the num­ber of reg­is­tered paid in­tern­ships and ap­pren­tice­ships in Ok­la­homa to 20,000 by 2020.

“There are some states that are look­ing at things like this, but Ok­la­homa is kind of on the cut­ting edge by set­ting a spe­cific mea­sur­able goal,” An­der­son said.

Al­low­ing more re­al­world learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties while in high school helps stu­dents de­cide where they want to go with their ca­reers, he said.

Many states are ex­plor­ing ways to have 18-year-olds grad­u­ate from high school with a diploma and a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion that al­lows them to go right into the work­force, An­der­son said.

Like­wise, many states are pro­vid­ing early col­lege and ca­reer plan­ning for stu­dents at age 14 and 15 “to start trending to­ward a STEM de­gree or an ed­u­ca­tion de­gree or a busi­ness de­gree so they will be in a bet­ter spot when they grad­u­ate high school.”

The dif­fer­ence can be huge. Fallin pointed out a full-time job for a per­son with a high school diploma or less pays $33,717 per year, while some­one with a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in a STEM field earns $81,702 per year.

Co­or­di­nat­ing ed­u­ca­tion

Align­ing high school and post­sec­ondary out­comes with work­force needs sounds sim­ple, but it’s “a re­ally hard thing to do,” An­der­son said.

There is a big push on lon­gi­tu­di­nal data sys­tems to make a more seam­less pipe­line for stu­dents, he said. That re­quires ev­ery­one shar­ing data, which doesn’t hap­pen in Ok­la­homa.

Co­or­di­nat­ing K-12 schools, Ca­reerTech, twoyear col­leges and univer­si­ties makes a lot of sense, Ok­la­homa State Univer­sity Pres­i­dent Burns Har­gis said.

“It’s re­ally a top-to­bot­tom is­sue. We need to look at the whole thing as a sys­tem and see how we can best lever­age these as­sets,” Har­gis said. “But ev­ery time you start tak­ing stuff like this on, no­body re­ally wants to make the hard de­ci­sions.”

Ok­la­homa’s 25 pub­lic col­leges and univer­si­ties need to get se­ri­ous about a sys­temwide ap­proach to ad­min­is­tra­tive ser­vices and stop try­ing to pro­tect their own turf, he said.

“There’s no need to have mul­ti­ple en­roll­ment sys­tems, mul­ti­ple pen­sion and health care sys­tems, all of these things,” Har­gis said. “We’re just very de­cen­tral­ized and we can’t af­ford that.”

Univer­sity of Ok­la­homa Pres­i­dent Jim Gal­lo­gly agrees the state’s higher ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem should be more ef­fi­cient.

Ok­la­homa has the sec­ond high­est num­ber of two-year and four-year in­sti­tu­tions and Ca­reerTech schools per 100,000 stu­dents in the na­tion, but grad­u­a­tion rates are in the bot­tom 10 per­cent, Gal­lo­gly said.

“That means a lot more ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he said. “It means a lot more build­ings to main­tain. It means ex­tra cost to the tax­payer, and some­times di­lu­tion in ef­fort of what we’re try­ing to ac­com­plish.

“Over­all, as a state, we’re go­ing to have to step back and say, ‘Is there some­thing here that’s bro­ken that needs to be fixed?’”

Har­gis agrees grad­u­a­tion rates are a prob­lem. The six-year grad­u­a­tion rate is about 30 per­cent at Ok­la­homa’s re­gional univer­si­ties and about 63 per­cent at OU and OSU.

Ok­la­homa em­ploy­ers have to hire grad­u­ates from other states to fill many crit­i­cal oc­cu­pa­tions.

Fix­ing the sys­tem

“We’ve got to fig­ure how are we go­ing to re­or­ga­nize the sys­tem in the best in­ter­est of the stu­dents that will pro­mote more grad­u­ates,” Har­gis said.

Last year’s task force on the fu­ture of higher ed­u­ca­tion in­cluded quite a bit of de­bate about the pos­si­ble clo­sure of cam­puses, Chan­cel­lor Glen John­son said.

The fi­nal re­port in­stead rec­om­mended mov­ing more in­sti­tu­tions un­der shared gov­ern­ing boards to pro­mote fis­cal vi­a­bil­ity and con­tin­ued ac­cess.

“What we’re rec­om­mend­ing is very sig­nif­i­cant. It in­volves seven of the 25 in­sti­tu­tions,” John­son said. “We ab­so­lutely want to save money and ben­e­fit stu­dents.”

State fund­ing for higher ed­u­ca­tion has de­creased about $300 mil­lion over the past four years.

Mean­while tu­ition and manda­tory fees paid by stu­dents has in­creased steadily. The av­er­age in­crease was 4 per­cent this aca­demic year, fol­low­ing 5.3 per­cent last year.

“We just can’t keep cut­ting the bud­get and putting the load on debt and stu­dents,” Har­gis said. “Ok­la­homa needs more col­lege grad­u­ates, so mak­ing it more ex­pen­sive is counter in­tu­itive.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.