Recently the U.S. Department of Education announced the results of the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study that showed the average price of attending a four-year public college or university has jumped $1,700 in the last four years.
The results highlight the financial challenges of higher education.
As the largest four-year university system in the state, the Regional University System of Oklahoma governs six of the state’s universities: ECU, Northeastern State University, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Southwestern Oklahoma State University and the University of Central Oklahoma. Together these institutions enrolled more than 50,000 students this year.
In 2013, the average annual cost of attendance at a regional system university was $11,637 compared to $23,200 nationally as reported by CNN Money. That means 38 percent of all Oklahoma graduates paid nearly half the national average for their education.
“We are very proud of the fact that Oklahoma is below the national average cost of a quality college education, stated East Central University President John Hargrave. “We offer a great opportunity at ECU - quality education at an affordable price.”
Part of how we help keep the cost affordable is our continual evaluation of cost savings and efficiencies. The six regional universities are saving more than $47 million through energy initiatives, reduced administrative expenses and information technology savings. Costs are also offset by seeking research funding to supplement state appropriations. Last year regional university institutions received more than $33 million in grants.
The Regional University System’s network of universities and satellite locations located around the state also helps college accessibility. Students who cannot attend college farther away due to job, family or financial circumstances still have the opportunity to earn an accredited four-year degree through classroom and online instruction.
Together these positively impact the affordability of a college degree, as evident in our low student college debt ratio. While students in the Regional University System of Oklahoma pay half of the cost of their education compared to the national average, 43 percent graduate without any college debt—the eighth lowest debt average in the nation.
There is no doubt that getting a college degree increases earning potential. Studies show that on average a person with a bachelor’s degree earns $1.1million more in a lifetime than a high school graduate. But as college tuition continues to rise, more students are forced to make hard decisions about whether they can afford to invest in a college degree.
We also are concerned about the impact of the nation’s rising cost of college tuition, which is why we are below the national average. The Regional University System of Oklahoma believes every person deserves the opportunity to increase their knowledge and earning potential, and as responsible stewards we will continue to make decisions that keep college affordable and accessible.
Richard Ogden is the chairman of the Board of Regents, Regional University System of Oklahoma.