Oklahoma can celebrate an increasing number of students attending its public colleges and universities. Our college enrollment is at record levels. Enrollment has increased 7 percent since 1998 and by almost 20,000 students in the last five years. The increasing numbers of college students is important. As shown on the next page, Oklahoma has too few college graduates among its citizens.
There is an interesting pattern among Oklahomans with respect to college participation. Recent surveys of Oklahoma's fifth- through 12th-grade students and their parents revealed that most of these students have future plans to attend college, and their parents expect them to do so. And yet, more than 40 percent do not enroll in college directly from high school. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, Oklahoma’s college-going rate is seven percentage points lower than the national average. Thus, the State Regents’ programs that help prepare high school students for college and encourage college participation—OHLAP, GEAR UP and EPAS—are very important.
Fortunately, unlike the college-going rate directly from high school, the college-going rate among Oklahoma adults is quite strong. One of every four students enrolled in Oklahoma colleges and universities is over the age of 30.
Our state outpaces the nation in adult learners aged 25 to 49 enrolled part-time in higher education. According to the most recent data, 3.1 percent of 25- to 49-year-olds attend college part-time in Oklahoma compared to the national average of 2.7 percent.
Adult education is increasingly crucial to the economic success of our families and state, particularly as our nation moves toward a more knowledge-based, global economy. The current enrollment patterns indicate that too few students go directly to college from high school, but as they get older and participate in the changing workplace, they recognize the value of obtaining a college education.