Leaders of seven area colleges and universities are optimistic a new approach will help them graduate more students with degrees.
The Tulsa Higher Education Consortium grew out of work to improve Tulsa Community College students’ experience transferring to other local institutions, and the organization wants to continue streamlining that process to make it easier for students to earn their degrees.
THE Consortium Executive Director Dr. Laura Latta said something to keep in mind is the seven member institutions' 40,000 students are a diverse group, so a one-size-fits-all education won’t work. Nearly half of students are age 25 or older and have jobs, homes and families, and students of color will likely be a majority of the area’s college students in the next 10 years.
"Naturally, these students experience different stressors, motivators and incentives for completing their degree programs. With the student population in mind, both part-time and full-time college options and instruction that is inclusive and responsive to student needs, cultures and life situations is critical," Latta said in a video shown during the Tulsa Regional Chamber's State of Education event on Thursday.
Latta was scheduled to be the in-person event's main speaker, but in the video, she said she recently tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated.
THE Consortium will also serve as a coordinating body for its member institutions. Latta said there are around 60 similar groups across the U.S. that share information and connections to local companies.
"This sharing of resources helped institutions to weather the storms of COVID and to help students connect with businesses who are now hiring with much greater frequency," Latta said.
Rogers State University President Dr. Larry Rice said the consortium can meet the need of any company if they know what those needs are. He said Google has never had a problem running its Pryor data center, and electric car maker Canoo was convinced Oklahoma schools from kindergarten through college could satisfy its needs.
"It took all of us at the table to convince them that Mayes County was the place to build a factory that would require 2,000 employees. So, we can get it done," Rice said.
Canoo announced last month it will build its electric vehicles at the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor.
The members of THE Consortium are Tulsa Community College, Langston University, OSU-Tulsa, OU-Tulsa, the University of Tulsa, Rogers State University and Northeastern State University.