MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

November 19, 2012

Area colleges answer the call

NSU, Connors join statewide effort to produce more graduates

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Area colleges will seek to recruit and retain more students as they respond to a state call to produce more graduates.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education is encouraging its institutions to produce 1,700 more graduates each year for the next 12 years. To help colleges do this, the regents are seeking $55 million in state funds for the state’s Complete College America initiative, part of a national initiative to boost college enrollment.

The $55 million is part of a $1.05 billion request in state funding for fiscal year 2014, which is a 9.47 percent increase from the Regents’ 2013 allocation.

Northeastern State University would add at least 55 graduates each year, NSU President Steve Turner said. The number is to increase by 55 each year, meaning 55 new graduates earning degrees this school year, 110 the next year, 165 the year after that, he said.

“At the end of 12 years, we would have 660 new graduates,” Turner said. “The base would just keep getting bigger.”

The president said NSU was among the first Oklahoma campuses to respond to Gov. Mary Fallin’s challenge to participate in the Complete College America initiative.

Turner said NSU has mapped the number of students transferring to NSU as well as the number of high school graduates coming to NSU. The university also has worked with schools such as Connors State College to help increase the number of students moving up from junior college, he said.

About 1,400 students graduated from NSU during its spring 2012 commencement, a media release said.

If the $55 million request is granted, NSU could get $1 million for it efforts to grow graduate numbers, Turner said. The Complete College America request would provide funding for additional course sections, full-time faculty and financial aid, according to a media release from the state regents.

Turner said the 2014 state allocation remains lower than 2008 levels.

Regents Director of Communication Ben Hardcastle said NSU received $36.7 million from the state for fiscal year 2013; Connors State College received $6.7 million.

Connors State officials said they expect more graduates as a result of its push toward allied health care education, said Lyndsey R. Sullivan, Connors’ director of college and community relations.

Regents expect CSC to increase by 11 students a year, Sullivan said. The college had 320 candidates for graduation at its May 2012 commencement.

Connors is adding degree programs in allied health such as occupational therapy assistant and physical therapy assistant to help attract more students, Sullivan said, adding that Connors also could gain more students through a nursing and allied health partnership with Indian Capital Technology Center.

Through the partnership, students can take initial classes at Indian Capital Technology Center and move on to Connors. Connors plans to build a new facility on its Port campus, which would adjoin a new facility on the ICTC campus next door to the Port campus.

“It’s just about adding more degrees,” Sullivan said. “ICTC can facilitate the technical side, and they can do their general studies at Connors.”

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogee

phoenix.com.