West Gives Task Force Report on Higher Education in State

Article excerpt

The poor quality of higher and common education in Oklahoma was a constant point of concern for Claude West, president of the Oklahoma division of Southwestern Bell Telephone, when he first moved to the state.

Like the weather, education was a subject that many people would talk about, he said Thursday, but few people were willing to do something about it.

Almost by accident, West wound up doing something about it.

"I commented to Dick Rush (president and chief executive of the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce and Industry) that I was uncomfortable with what I was hearing," West told the board of directors of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce.

As a result, West was enlisted as chairman of the state chamber's Higher Education Task Force, which includes membership from the private sector, education and the legislature.

The findings of that task force were presented Thursday to the Oklahoma City chamber's board of directors, including:

- The Oklahoma Legislature should increase appropriations per full-time equivalent student to the national average within the next four years.

- The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education should increase tuition levels at each institution over the next three years to 30 percent of the total education and general costs at the institutions.

- The regents should do away with its enrollment-driven budget system, sometimes called "formula funding," and develop a budget system based on quality of programs rather than quantity of students.

- Admission, academic and faculty standards should be raised. In addition, the mission of each higher education tier - two-year colleges, regional universities, comprehensive universities - should be well-defined.

- The state regents should be held accountable for strong, visible, responsive leadership.

The relationship between quality education and economic development was emphasized both in West's speech and in a film he presented titled: "Higher Education and Economic Growth: The Vital Link. …