Creativity and College Completion: The Challenge

By Blake Sonobe, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education

A college education has for generations been, for many, the primary route for economic advancement.  I still recall the words of my father, “In order to get ahead, you have to have a good education.”  These words remain true to this day.  Similarly, there is excellent correlation between the economic wealth of a nation and the educational attainment of its people.  Recent studies have shown that the economic health of our nation may be at risk.  The recent Georgetown University study provided the following statistics.  Through 2020,

  • there will be 55 million job openings in the economy; 24 million openings from newly created jobs and 31 million due to baby boom retirements.
  • 35% of the jobs openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree, another 30% will require at least some college or an associate’s degree and the remaining 35% will not require education beyond high school.
  • at the current rate of certificate and degree production in the United States, there will be a shortage of 5 million workers with postsecondary education by 2020.

To remain economically competitive as a state and a nation and to give our residents an opportunity for economic advancement, it is imperative that we significantly increase the number of postsecondary certificates and degrees.  Oklahoma’s Complete College America project was kicked off in September 2011 with five major reforms:

  • Focus on Readiness
  • Transform Remediation
  • Build Bridges to Certificates and Degrees
  • Adult Completion – Reach Higher
  • Track and Reward Progress and Completion – Performance Funding

Through continuous development of strategies to implement the reforms, Oklahoma has exceeded its goals for certificates and degrees in the first two years of Complete College America.  To successfully achieve its goal of increasing the number of degrees and certificates by 67% (the number predicted to be needed in Oklahoma) by 2023, new strategies must be developed in the following areas.

  • Increasing the retention and graduation rates for students attending college.
  • Reaching traditional and non-traditional students who in the past were not able or had not considered attending college.

How can we better do this?  2020 is not far away.

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