It’s going to take bold action to dramatically increase the number of college graduates in Oklahoma—that’s according to State Sen. Kenneth Corn who has unveiled a landmark legislative proposal that would essentially create a K-14 education program in Oklahoma.
“I am proposing free tuition to any students who graduate from Oklahoma high schools and who want to attend one of our state’s community colleges or career techs,” said Corn, D-Poteau. “This is something that Oklahoma City Community College and Tulsa Community College offer to students in their areas. I want to make it available throughout the state.”
Oklahoma has 12 two-year colleges located throughout the state, with 29 career tech districts that include 56 separate campuses. Under Corn’s legislation, any Oklahoma high school graduate would be eligible to attend one of those schools free, regardless of their parents’ income. The program would not have the same high school curriculum and grade point average requirements as the OHLAP scholarship program.
Corn said Oklahoma has made important strides toward increasing the number of college graduates in the state. According to the Regents for Higher Education, between 2000 and 2004, the percentage of Oklahomans with bachelor’s degrees increased from 20.2 to 22.2 percent, moving the state from 47th to 42nd in the nation.
“We are moving in the right direction, and programs like OHLAP have been a great part of that success—but we need to do much more,” Corn said. “Study after study shows the way to increase our per capita income is to increase the number of college graduates. I believe if students have the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree, they’ll be much more likely to continue their education and earn a bachelor’s degree as well.”
Studies also indicate that while most high school students expect to go to college, only about half actually do. Corn said his bill would increase access, helping more students than ever attend college.
“My preliminary research indicates the cost for this initiative would be approximately $20 million, but the dividends Oklahoma will reap in terms of increased earning potential for our state will far exceed the cost,” Corn said. “This is a critical investment in the future of Oklahoma. I hope when the 2008 legislative session begins, my fellow members will realize the benefits this will have for citizens in their districts and one day perhaps, even expand this to our four-year colleges.”