Students from Cameron University were among hundreds of supporters of higher education who rallied in Oklahoma City Tuesday to promote its importance to the state economy. “Higher Education Day at the State Capitol” is an annual event that gives students, faculty and staff from Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities the opportunity to meet with legislators and explain the value of a college degree.
Representing Cameron at the event were Caitlin Anders, Lawton; Greyson Basham, Whitney Brown, Ryan Christie, and Kali Sanders, all of Lawton; Keith Wheeler, Duncan; and Luis Jaquez, Fletcher, who serves as president of the CU Student Government Association.
Anders was one of three college students who addressed the capacity crowd in the Oklahoma House chamber and told how higher education has positively impacted their lives. Anders, a junior who is majoring in journalism and medial production and minoring in theatre arts, first moved to Lawton because of her family’s connection to Fort Sill. She came to Cameron as a freshman with the thought of taking a few general education courses before transferring out of state, but the quality of faculty and coursework prompted her to stay. Anders hosts “Film Geek” on CUTV, Cameron’s on-campus cable station, and is producer-in-training for “CUTV News.” She is also a resident assistant in student housing.
“If there is one thing that higher education has taught me, it’s how to organize such a busy schedule,” Anders told the crowd. “My experience at Cameron University has pushed me to start a professional career at a young age, before I even walk the stage to accept my college degree. I thank my freshman-self for choosing to stay at Cameron University, because I had no idea where that would take me. I took the opportunities that higher education provided, and it transformed my life.”
Other speakers at the rally included Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education chair Jay Helm, and Glen D. Johnson, Chancellor of Higher Education.
The importance of restoring successive years of budget cuts to public higher education was a key point of the rally, said Johnson. “We will continue working with Governor Stitt, 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.”
For Fiscal Year 2020, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education have requested an increase of $101.5 million – or 13.1 percent – to the higher education budget as the first step in restoring roughly 25 percent in budget cuts that were made during the state’s economic downturn.
State Regents are requesting the increase to restore courses, fund concurrent enrollment for high school students, restore badly diminished scholarship programs, meet fixed costs and campus infrastructure needs, and 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, Johnson pointed out. This investment will provide state colleges and universities funding to meet instruction and academic enterprise requirements.
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.
February 14, 2019