By Billie Rodely
Just how many tassels are tossed across graduating college seniors’ mortarboards is only one of the issues under the microscope of the Oklahoma Senate Education Committee. Interim Resolution SSP 23 authored by Bartlesville Republican Senator John Ford calls for “A study over the efficiency and effectiveness of higher education in OK and will review all sources of funding (including appropriations), graduation rates, economic impact, and overall goals of higher education.”
“Over the last couple years, most of the education interim studies and legislation has involved common education, with many positive reforms passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor.” said Ford. “It is now time to start the process of better understanding the issues that impact higher education and the citizens of Oklahoma.”
Senator Ford said this interim study will involve Committee members hearing from representatives of the Education Commission of the States (ECS), the Southern Region Education Board (SREB) and others. “These organizations are very involved with higher education in other states and it is important that we gain an understanding of what is considered ‘best in class’.”
In addition, Ford said, “The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) will present many of their findings concerning higher ed. From presentations such as these, we plan on identifying some of the areas of needed improvement and the type of legislation required.”
He expressed certainty “without a doubt” that the results of the study will be in front of the next Legislative Session. “I believe legislation will be developed based on the findings of the interim study.”
As the Oklahoma Legislature became more “R” than “D” in recent years, the relationship between the legislative body and the higher education community has become more strained, according to published reports. Senator Ford believes this and other studies of higher education could further impact that so-called relationship.
“The intent of the Senate interim study is to identify areas of needed changes to the higher education system of Oklahoma to better provide the educational services that are appropriate. At this time, those changes are not identified, but if the “relationship” between the legislature and regents need to occur in order to improve the process, then those changes need to be considered.”
As of this writing, no hearing schedule for interim studies before the Senate Education Committee has been posted.
When asked how “efficiency and effectiveness of higher education” might be measured, Sen. Ford responded in writing with bullet points he has in mind:
• % of degrees that are earned in optimal time frame, i.e., Associates degree in 2 years and most Bachelor’s degrees in 4 years.
• % of graduates that are employed in a career capacity” within a minimum time after graduation.
• Amount of student loan upon graduation relative to the degree received.
“At his point in the process, I certainly don’t know the answers, but am actively working to identify the appropriate questions”, Ford said of the interim study process.
The Bartlesville Senator said he has reviewed “with interest” the studies of Peter J. Rudy (editor, Oklahoma.watchdog.org), as well as many other organizations looking at higher education in Oklahoma and internationally.
“I believe it is important that all points of views and studies be included in the process of better understanding needed changes. At the end of the day, all of us are interested in improving the “educational product” that is made available to and paid for by the citizens of Oklahoma.”
Efficiency and Effectiveness of Oklahoma Higher Ed. Under Study
By Billie Rodely
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