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Oklahoma Community Colleges

Written by Dick Pryor on Thursday November 17, 2011

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The Sheet

November 18, 2011

Enrollment at Oklahoma's 14 two-year community colleges has been increasing dramatically in the last decade. Over the past ten years, the number of degrees and certificates conferred has increased by 23%. That's evidence of the growing influence and popularity of community colleges.

This week on Oklahoma Forum we discuss the role and the impact of Oklahoma's community colleges with Gary Davidson, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Association of Community Colleges; Dr. Stephen E. Smith, President of Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton; and Dr. Terry Britton, President of Rose State College in Midwest City.

There are many reasons for the increase in interest in community colleges. For one, they are very affordable. The average yearly tuition for two-year colleges in Oklahoma is $2,775. That's well below the $4,394 annual tuition at regional colleges and far below the annual tuition cost of $6,781 for students at Oklahoma's comprehensive universities.

The relatively low cost encourages not only students who wish to receive an associate degree, but those who have a concurrent enrollment with another college or university. Increasingly, students are doing their first two years of coursework at a community college before finishing up at a regional college or comprehensive university.

Another advantage that makes community colleges attractive is their location. The 14 Oklahoma community colleges are accessible to students at 32 locations spread around the state. It is that easy access that our state's founders favored when establishing the community college system and it is still a selling point today. The goal all along has been to provide access to anyone in the state that is interested in obtaining a college degree.

Also, for an increasing number of students, including older, non-traditional students, community colleges are providing specific training that is helpful in employment fields such as health care, especially nursing. In these uncertain economic times, community colleges have helped displaced workers require the education and certification they need to obtain a new job.

Like all state agencies, community colleges face funding challenges. Aging infrastructure is also a problem. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Our guests can explain all this better than I can. I encourage you to watch this week's program to learn more about our state's sometimes under-appreciated community college system. We at OETA hope to develop further initiatives with our two-year colleges as we work together to serve our state through the core government function of education.

Until next time,

Dick Pryor

(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Gary Davidson, Dr. Stephen E. Smith, Dr. Terry Britton)


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