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Oklahoma House higher education chair says fully funding concurrent enrollment a priority

Moving away from her family to attend college was scary for Luana Antuono, but she wasn’t nervous about the academics.

“LuLu” Antuono, of Ardmore, already had a year of college credit under her belt — thanks to concurrent enrollment. She had taken classes at Lone Grove High School and at Murray State College at the same time.

“Going into college I had a total of 24 credit hours. It was nice coming in because I already had a feeling of the courses and the material,” said Antuono, a senior mathematics education major at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.

“In high school you don’t know if you’re going to be prepared for college. I had that comfort and confidence,” she said.

Since 2005, Oklahoma’s concurrent enrollment program has allowed juniors and seniors to earn college credit while still in high school. Seniors can receive a tuition waiver for six credit hours per semester.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education requested $10.6 million to cover 100 percent of the tuition waivers next fiscal year. Right now the state is funding only 27 percent, with the colleges and universities covering the rest.

In its final report, the state’s task force on the future of higher education recommends concurrent enrollment not only be fully funded, but also expanded.

“That is definitely top priority for me,” said Rep. Jadine Nollan, R-Sands Springs. Nollan, a task force member, chairs the House Committee on Higher Education and CareerTech.

“At the grassroots, there’s a lot of support for concurrent enrollment,” Nollan said.

“The indicators show that students who take concurrent enrollment classes are better prepared and more confident and have better success rates when they do go to college,” she said.

A bill authored by Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, last year would have provided that additional funding, but it failed to advance. Nollan said Stanislawski is carrying the bill again this year and she will be the House author.

“We’ve got to put the money into it to allow these students to excel and thrive,” she said. “It needs to be one of our top priorities.”

Nollan said she is disappointed Gov. Mary Fallin didn’t include an increase in higher education funding in her proposed budget.

Concurrent enrollment moves students through the education system faster and gets them into the workforce faster, Nollan said.

“We have to invest in our future workforce. Our economy and Oklahoma’s future depends on it,” she said.

The program also saves families money and reduces student debt.

“One thing that always benefits families is if they can reduce the cost,” Nollan said. “They don’t have the same expenses they would have, but these students still are earning college credit.”

Nollan envisions a pathway for Oklahoma’s students to be able to earn an associate degree by the time they graduate from high school. Other states are doing it, she said.

Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City Community College and Tulsa Community already have launched programs to do that.

These pilot programs have shown great promise, Nollan said.

“There’s a lot of momentum and I think we will see a lot of growth in concurrent enrollment. That’s another reason why it’s very important for it to be properly funded,” she said.

During the 2016-17 academic year, 19,358 high school seniors statewide completed 91,035 college credits tuition-free. They saved an average $116 per credit earned, according to a state regents’ report.

President Jack Bryant said concurrent enrollment grew almost 40 percent in two years at Redlands Community College.

“I’m losing over $1 million at 27 percent,” Bryant said in August. “I can’t continue to lose funding.”

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Article source: http://newsok.com/oklahoma-house-higher-education-chair-says-fully-funding-concurrent-enrollment-a-priority/article/5582818