Q&A - December 9, 2016

This is the 70th year OSUIT has existed in Okmulgee. Over the years, we have served countless students and been known by many different names, but we have always been committed to quality technical training.

Q:What are the biggest challenges facing OSUIT right now?

Over the course of my career as an administrator, I have seen my fair share of institutional challenges. This last fiscal year has been especially troubling for higher education in the state of Oklahoma. Unprecedented statewide funding shortfalls have forced the majority of colleges and universities to reduce human resources and sacrifice academic programs and support services that help our most vulnerable student populations. This past July, public institutions of higher education (including OSUIT) had their operational budgets reduced by 16.09% from the previous year, setting the wrong kind of historical record.

Our second major challenge has been retaining students up to graduation. While every year our new student enrollment numbers seem to outpace previous records, we remain flat in our overall student enrollment. We are not growing, but we don’t have a recruitment problem; we have a retention problem. The primary dilemma for OSUIT is when employers, who are desperate for skilled workers, become impatient and hire OSUIT students before they graduate. This all too common practice not only reduces a student’s overall earning potential, but it also inhibits OSUIT’s operational efficiency and tuition revenue.

A third challenge has been not having enough student housing available on- and off-campus in Okmulgee. Our campus-based housing facilities have operated at near capacity for many years, and housing options for students within the community have been rather limited. This has forced many students to commute to campus from out of town who would have preferred to live locally. We hope the many restoration projects currently underway in downtown Okmulgee will help to alleviate this problem by providing more housing options for students in the future.

Despite these challenges, OSUIT has an obligation to perform at a high level. Our students and many constituents depend on us to be a vibrant institution that produces top caliber technicians in many fields. This is why I have been so proud to witness a campus and a community that have rallied and continue to demonstrate a strong commitment to OSUIT and our legacy of excellence. Together, we will overcome any challenges OSUIT might face.

The truth of the matter is this: OSUIT is doing what every higher education institution should be doing, and we do it best. How do I know? Because with a 90 percent job placement rate, our graduates go to work in high-paying careers where the demand continues to go unmet; because private industry invests millions of dollars in support and in-kind gifts year after year to ensure our laboratory environments are well-equipped; and because we are recognized as having the lowest student debt among graduates in the region by U.S. News and World Report. OSUIT continues to be an incredible return on investment (ROI) for students and employers alike.

Your input with this column is greatly appreciated. Please forward your feedback or questions to osuit-president@okstate.edu.