Oklahoma Works to Increase College Graduation Rates
Oklahoma’s trailing most of the country in getting students through four years of college. The most recent numbers show only 44 percent earned a diploma, even when giving students six years to get through school. To fix that, Governor Fallin says the state will join 28 others in an initiative called Complete College America.
“We’re going to put a major push on Oklahomans to earn their degrees. Whether they start out as a freshman in college or maybe it’s those who might be my age that started, took some college hours and didn’t finish their degree,” said Governor Fallin.
Secretary of Education Phyllis Hudecki says the program will start to shift how people think about education.
“We’re talking about the high school diploma being the credential that signals that you are ready for continuing your training and education. It is no longer a terminal degree,” said Hudecki.
Oklahoma Secretary of Science and Technology Steven McKeever, takes the thought even farther. He wants more improvement in what’s known as STEM: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
“When you hear these statistics about there are no jobs for college graduates, they’re wrong. There are jobs for college graduates. In particular, there are jobs for college graduates in the STEM fields, but we are not producing them,” said McKeever.
The unemployment rate for college graduates with a degree in a STEM subject is a measly 2%, compared to more than 9% for the country as a whole. If the state can find a way to both push more students towards STEM fields while also increasing post secondary degrees, it would vault up the charts nationwide. Secretary Hudecki says the problem isn’t a lack of ambition, it’s that Oklahoma students aren’t performing well in high school.
“The students right now need encouragement taking rigorous courses, doing the hard work, the hard stuff required to make you employable and to obtain better education once you’re out of high school,” said Hudecki.
The state can’t go it alone, though. Hudecki’s imploring parents to push their kids.
“We’re going to need you to provide inspiration and encouragement to our kids to help close this gap and correct misalignment,” said Hudecki.
Governor Fallin says she’ll officially announce the program Complete College America in September.
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