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ECU students visit the State Capitol for Higher Education Day.

The faculty, students, and the administration joined hundreds of others from other Oklahoma colleges and universities to highlight the importance and significance of higher education in Oklahoma.

ECU Students had a chance to meet Senate Minority Floor Leader Greg McCartney, State Representative Ronny Johns, and other members of the ECU community. Oklahoma Supreme Court Justices Norma Gurich and Dustin Rowe joined the students for lunch.

“Students staff and faculty members from Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities gathered today at the State Capitol to highlight the importance of a college education,” said Regional University System of Oklahoma Chancellor Allison D. Garrett.

The speakers who spoke at the Higher Education Session in the afternoon included Governor Kevin Stitt, Secretary Ryan Walters, Speaker Charles McCall, Senator Roger Thompson, Rep. Kevin Wallace, Senator Adam Pugh, Governor Adam Pugh, State Governors’ chair Jeffrey W. Hickman, and Chancellor Garrett.

“Among the state’s most critical occupations,” Garrett said, “47 of the 50 jobs with the highest pay require the completion of a college degree. U.S. Census Bureau data indicate that those with an associate’s degree earn more than $1,000 monthly than those with only a high school degree or an undergraduate degree earn more than $2000 more than high school graduates. Higher education for all students is essential for boosting Oklahoma’s economy and creating our workforce. It must be a top-of-the-line priority for the state.”

In the coming fiscal year, the State Regents have sought $40 million to fund crucial initiatives to develop the workforce, including funding to meet the nursing, engineering, and teacher education needs and increase the capacity of physician residency across the state, and fund pre-college STEM Summer Academies and provide grants to adult students who want to finish their college degrees or to earn an industry-recognized micro-credential or certificate.

The other priorities are to ultimately pay for the concurrent enrollment program, which is for seniors in high schools as well as junior students ($4 million), to increase the amount of money invested in financial aid that is based on need, and scholarships ($6.85 million) and to add additional funds to operations of the system ($34.3 million) to aid in the process of campus facilities and operations and infrastructure; encourage collaboration with innovation and efficiency efforts across institutions; and enhance the quality and quality of online education.

Another goal for the state’s university system during the legislative session that is coming up is to keep the current law on guns on campus for higher education. Oklahoma higher education is a proponent of its students’ rights under the Second Amendment and gun ownership. According to current law, the campus president has the power to approve who is allowed to carry firearms on campus. The State Regents and presidents of the 25 state system institutions believe that the current law regarding campus weapons is in place.

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