In Measuring Up 2002: The State-by-State Report Card for Higher Education released today by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, Oklahoma scored higher grades in two of the five categories measured by the report card, but still has a long way to go in preparing its students for college-level work.
Oklahoma’s grades improved in the areas of participation and benefits but remained the same in preparation and completion. Affordability was the only category in which Oklahoma’s grade dropped slightly because other states showed better improvement.
“It is clear from the national report card that we still have a lot of work ahead of us if we expect to see improvements in these five areas, especially in the preparation area,” Chancellor Hans Brisch said. “As indicated in the report card, the majority of Oklahoma high school students are not taking the advanced courses they need to succeed in college nor are they enrolling in college after they graduate. And in order for our state to move forward and achieve the goals outlined in our Brain Gain 2010 initiative to produce more graduates, students need to take a stronger core curriculum.”
Brisch added that higher education must continue to work in partnership with the Oklahoma State Department of Education and organizations like the Oklahoma Business and Education Coalition to look at curriculum issues and strengthen curriculum across the board.
Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating echoed Brisch’s call for additional strengthening of the high school curriculum.
“Study after study shows that the number and quality of core academic courses taken in high school is a strong predictor of college and life success,” he said. “I hope that my successor and the Legislature will continue to look for ways to better prepare our young people for higher learning, with a focus on assuring that students study core courses throughout high school.”
Brisch added, “State Regents have an active agenda to address higher education’s performance in each of the five categories. With programs and initiatives such as the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP), the Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS) and Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), we are on the right track.”
Oklahoma improved in the majority of measures in all of the categories except preparation. Brisch noted that the measures used in the 2002 report card are from the year 2000 or earlier; therefore, the state is likely to see more improvements by the time the next report card is issued in 2004.
Measuring Up 2002 is the second national report card on higher education. The first was published in 2000. Grades are based on the relationship of each state’s performance to the top state in each category, and weights are assigned to each measure within a category.
In the participation category, Oklahoma improved from a C in 2000 to a C+ in 2002, experiencing gains in the percentage of high school freshmen enrolling in college (37 percent) and the percentage of 25-to 49-year-olds enrolled part-time in some type of postsecondary education (3.9 percent). Oklahoma was one of 28 other states that received improved grades. Five states received lower grades, while 16 remained the same.
Higher education officials expect Oklahoma to do even better in this category in the future as OHLAP expands and more students go to college. Under OHLAP, students from families whose income is $50,000 or less and who take the required 17 cores courses in high school, maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average and stay out of trouble will receive free tuition to any Oklahoma public college or university.
Oklahoma’s grade in the benefits category moved up from a C- in 2000 to a C in 2002. The report card showed that the state improved in the majority of measures including educational achievement and personal income as a percentage of the population holding a bachelor’s degree.
The State Regents will continue to address this issue under their Brain Gain 2010 initiative, a bold and aggressive plan to increase the percentage of degree holders in the state, Brisch said.
In the completion category, Oklahoma received a C-, the same grade it received in 2000. The report stated that even though Oklahoma improved in the majority of measures in this category, graduation rates and the number of certificates and degrees awarded remain fairly low. Through Brain Gain 2010, the State Regents are currently focusing attention on improving retention and graduation rates at the state’s public colleges and universities.
Oklahoma dropped from a B- to a C in affordability; 43 other states also dropped, however. Only one state, California, received an A. Despite the drop, Oklahoma “has improved and is a top-performing state in the low share of income, after financial aid, that families must pay to cover costs at public two-year and four-year colleges,” the report stated.
Not reflected in the national report card, however, is that funding for Oklahoma’s primary need-based program, the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG), has increased $1.6 million, or 9 percent, since FY2000. In addition, the amount expended on OHLAP scholarships grew from $1.7 million in FY2000 to $2.9 million in FY2002 and is projected to reach $4.7 million in FY2003 and as high as $24.7 million by FY2006.
Compared to the top states in the preparation category, Oklahoma received a D+, the same grade it received in 2001. And, there was not as much improvement as compared to other areas. There was, however, a slight increase in the percentage of eighth graders taking algebra and in the number of students scoring in the top 20 percent nationally on the ACT test. The number of students scoring high on the Advanced Placement also improved.
The report card indicated that most high school students are not taking the core courses needed for them to perform well in college. Brisch pointed out that students enrolled in OHLAP take advanced courses and have higher GPAs and ACT scores than the state average. They also attend college at a higher rate than other Oklahoma students.
“The success that our OHLAP students are having in high school and college, clearly indicates that a strong core curriculum works, and we must secure the necessary funding to keep the program viable each year as the program continues to expand,” Brisch said, noting that nearly 20,000 students are currently enrolled in OHLAP.
Current initiatives not reflected in the national report card also include the State Regents’ Student Preparation Task Force comprised of K-16 educators, administrators, and business leaders; the Achieve, Inc. study of Oklahoma K-12 standards, and the formation of the State Regents’ Office of Student Preparation to deepen the impact of EPAS and the GEAR UP program.
“Oklahoma’s future scores on the national report card hinge on how well our middle and high school students are being prepared for postsecondary education,” State Regents’ Chairman Carl Renfro said. “If we can improve in the area of preparation, then the other areas measured in the report card should follow suit. But first, we must impress upon our students the need for them to take more of the core courses, especially the more advanced science and math courses. That’s the key that will unlock the many doors of opportunity waiting for them.”
Established in 1998, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education promotes public policies that enhance Americans’ opportunities to pursue and achieve a quality higher education.
Measuring Up 2002 was funded through grants from The Atlantic Philanthropies, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and several foundations, including the Ford Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts.