Eastern students visit State Capitol for 2019 Higher Education Day
WILBURTON, OK (Feb. 18, 2018) – Eastern Oklahoma State College students and staff joined students, faculty and representatives from Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities on Feb. 12 for the annual Higher Education Day at the state Capitol, promoting the value and importance of higher education in the state.
Eastern students attending the event included Freeman of Nashoba; Journey Dees-West of Wilburton; Triphornia Mubaiwa of Austin, TX; Dale Shackleford of Slaughterville; Leila Aaron of Wilburton; Hannah Posey of McAlester; and Brooklyn Allen of Idabel. Eastern staff attending included President Dr. Stephen E. Smith; Trish McBeath, vice president of Student and External Affairs; and Bryan Denny, director of Student Life.
Speakers included Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell; Sen. Roger Thompson; Rep. Jadine Nollan; State Regents chair Jay Helm; Chancellor Glen D. Johnson; and President Tim Faltyn, Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
“Students, faculty and staff from Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities came together today at our State Capitol to meet with the Governor and legislators in order to highlight the value of a college degree and the importance of beginning to restore successive years of budget cuts to public higher education,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “We will continue working with the Governor, his cabinet and House and Senate members during this legislative session to make the case that higher education is critical to building Oklahoma’s economy and workforce, and must be a top state priority.”
Three students also spoke at the event. Caitlin Anders, Cameron University; Aleysa Franz, Northwestern Oklahoma State University; and Palmer Tetley, Tulsa Community College, shared how higher education at Oklahoma’s public college and universities has positively impacted their lives.
For FY 2020, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education have requested $878.2 million, which reflects an increase of $101.5 million or 13.1 percent over the FY 2019 appropriation of $776.7 million.
The State Regents are requesting $38.7 million to provide a 7.5 percent increase in faculty salaries. The average faculty salary at Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities is more than 10 percent below their peers in other states. Additional funding for faculty salary increases is critical to state system efforts to competitively retain and recruit quality faculty.
Strengthening Oklahoma’s workforce pipeline through the Complete College America degree and certificate completion plan continues to be a top state system priority. The State Regents are requesting $20.4 million to increase the number of faculty and instructor positions and restore course sections. This investment will provide state colleges and universities funding to meet instruction and academic enterprise requirements.
Increased financial aid funding will also be a priority for the State Regents in the upcoming legislative session. The State Regents are seeking $12.3 million to restore significantly diminished scholarship programs, including the National Guard waiver, the Teacher Shortage Employment Incentive Program and the Regional University Baccalaureate Scholarship. The request will also fully fund the concurrent enrollment program, which provides tuition waivers to high school seniors who enroll in college coursework during their senior year. The budget need request also includes $24.3 million for fixed cost increases, such as employee benefits, utilities, library acquisitions, equipment, supplies and risk management, and $5.8 million for deferred maintenance and campus infrastructure needs.
Another area of focus during the legislative session will be maintaining the current law regarding weapons on higher education campuses. Oklahoma higher education does not oppose the Second Amendment or gun ownership. Under current law, campus presidents have the discretion to permit the carrying of weapons when an exception is warranted. The State Regents and the presidents of all 25 state system institutions strongly believe that the current law with regard to weapons on campus is working.
The State Regents will also continue efforts to protect the dedicated funding source for the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship. Recognized by many as America’s best college access program, Oklahoma’s Promise is considered a national model that combines emphases on academic preparation and financial support for college. More than 85,000 students have earned college tuition scholarships through Oklahoma’s Promise since the program’s inception in 1992.
Eastern students and staff gather at the State Capitol for Higher Education Day on Feb. 12. Pictured are (from left to right) Eastern President Dr. Stephen E. Smith; Jayden Freeman of Nashoba; Journey Dees-West of Wilburton; Triphornia Mubaiwa of Austin, TX; Dale Shackleford of Slaughterville; Leila Aaron of Wilburton; Hannah Posey of McAlester; Brooklyn Allen of Idabel; and Bryan Denny, Director of Student Life.