By: Duane Blankenship | Category: Education | Issue: February 2012
Dr. Tim McElroy, dean of NSU Muskogee, also served as statewide director for Reach Higher, Oklahoma’s degree completion program.
In 2006, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education completed a survey to determine how many residents of the state had accumulated at least 77 college credit hours but had never completed their degree. Results identified 69,000 individuals fitting the criteria. In an effort to make it affordable to students, a program has been introduced known as Reach Higher, Oklahoma’s degree completion program.
The State Regents asked Oklahoma’s regional universities to jointly formulate a curriculum that could literally change lives. In early spring of 2006, NSU was selected as the lead institution in developing the program with Dr. Tim McElroy, dean of the NSU Muskogee campus, selected as statewide director. Faculty representatives were chosen from nine participating Oklahoma universities – Cameron, East Central, Langston, Northeastern State, Northwestern Oklahoma State, Rogers State, Southeastern Oklahoma State, Southwestern Oklahoma State, and the University of Central Oklahoma.
Industry leaders and key employers were contacted and asked what they needed prior to the development of program courses. The finished curriculum included four main areas: commerce, critical thinking, ethics and the ability to read spreadsheets.
The Reach Higher degree completion program is designed for working adults. Dr. McElroy says you may participate in the program at any of the three NSU locations – Broken Arrow, Muskogee or Tahlequah – or select one of the other eight participating schools as your “home institution.” Using existing college credits, the program coordinator at your home institution will help you develop a degree completion plan that will complement your schedule.
Reach Higher offers on-campus and online class options, affordable eight-week classes, five enrollment periods per year, flexible schedules, and a bachelor of science in organizational leadership upon graduation. Classes toward degree attainment first began in the spring of 2007 with an enrollment of 50 students. Today, there are over 500 students in the program, and the number is expected to continue growing each year. Faculty members from the nine participating universities meet three times per year to compare curriculum successes and review the degree completion program.
Why should you consider going back to college and completing your degree? If you are driven to earn more, and meet the program requirements, please consider the Reach Higher program. You must be at least 21 years old and have around 70 hours of college credit with a minimum 2.0 GPA from previous college credits. You also need to have completed general education requirements as defined by the university you plan to attend.
Most people are surprised to learn that, on average, a college graduate will earn $1.1 million more than a high school graduate over the course of a lifetime. “Reach Higher provides graduates with the leadership training, communication skills, and business knowledge needed to get ahead,” says Dr. McElroy. “Completion of a degree opens doors to enhanced career opportunities and greater earning power.” Reach Higher is a win-win for graduates and the economy of the State of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma State colleges and universities currently award 30,500 degrees each year. Governor Mary Fallin and higher education officials previously announced an initiative to increase the number of Oklahomans who have college degrees to nearly 51,000 by the year 2023.
Financial aid is available for qualified students. Visit NSU’s financial aid office for assistance. Your employer may also provide tuition reimbursement opportunities. Check with your company’s human resources department for more information.
With the nine participating universities being state schools, enrollment is very cost friendly, and you have the credibility of being affiliated with an Oklahoma State school. Go online and check out Reach Higher today.
Blankenship graduated from the University of Oklahoma and has enjoyed a lifetime career in advertising. He started his own advertising business in 1993 and enjoys creating graphic art and writing. Hobbies include hunting, fishing and pencil drawings. Duane and his wife, Janice, have been married over 50 years and are active in their church and community. He has been a contributing writer for Value News/Values Magazine since 2005.