The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

January 18, 2012

Chancellor extols state higher education virtues

ENID — In spite of money problems, Oklahoma’s colleges and universities are among the best in the nation, said Glen Johnson, chancellor of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

“The chancellor said Oklahoma ranks eighth out of the 50 states in affordability of college tuition and in accessibility,” said Cheryl Evans, president of Northern Oklahoma College.

Johnson attended a legislative briefing Wednesday at Northwestern Oklahoma State University-Enid, along with presidents of area universities and colleges, including Evans; Janet Cunningham, Northwestern Oklahoma State University; Randy Beutler, Southwestern Oklahoma State University; and David Bryant, Oklahoma Panhandle State University.

During his briefing, Johnson said higher education officials are working on cost savings and have decreased the need for additional state funds for mandatory operation. A plan started in 2009, which will continue through 2013, has saved $347 million through information technology, energy conservation, conversion, changes and elimination of jobs, and reductions of supplies.

“Technical cost savings, along with education discounts for colleges and universities, saved $40 million last year,” Evans said.

All of the state’s 25 colleges and universities actively are seeking funds from outside the state in the form of grants, Johnson told the group. In 2010, the 25 institutions received $612 million in grants for programs, Johnson said.

Johnson quoted statistics from U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Chamber Foundation, saying Oklahoma as a state is ranked eighth in higher education efficiency, meaning operation. It also is the eighth-most efficient in utilizing funds and the eighth-most affordable state in which to attend college.

Oklahoma also ranks 16th in the United States in job growth in four specific areas: science, engineering, technology and mathematics. Johnson said job growth in those areas is a good thing to have.

Higher education enrollment from 2008 through 2011 showed more than 16,000 new students, he said.

“During the same time as the enrollment increase, we saw over a four-year cycle a 9.44 percent reduction in state appropriations, so we’re doing more with less,” Evans said.

NOC Regent Lynn Smith said he was impressed with Johnson.

“Glen Johnson is a very impressive speaker. He’s articulate, informed, presents his case well. I’ve always been impressed with Glen Johnson,” he said.

For the 2013 budget year, higher education needs total $945,260,000 and the colleges are asking for $34 million in new money

On another subject, the state regents, all 25 Oklahoma institutions and all governing boards, believe there is no scenario where placing guns on campuses will do anything other than create a more dangerous environment for students and faculty, Johnson said in printed material handed out. The past four legislative sessions, lawmakers have introduced bills that would allow certain students to carry concealed weapons onto college property. The regents have successfully defeated the legislation to date. Johnson said it will continue to be a priority to ensure such legislation does not become law.

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