Pursuing higher education is tough for anyone, but the University Center of Southern Oklahoma is looking to adapt to people’s needs.
The university center is asking the community to participate in a survey meant to gauge the needs and interests of college students, high schoolers and the general public. The survey is short and can be completed online.
“This institution was created for the people in this area and we really want to hear their voice to make sure it’s serving them well,” UCSO Interim President Peggy Maher said.
Maher said the idea came out of a meeting between the Academic Affairs offices of the center’s partner universities.
“As we were talking, we realized that in order to make good decisions about what programs to bring and what to teach, they really need to have data from the community and not just assume they know what the community needs,” Maher said.
The survey asks participants what kind of degree programs they’d like to see in Ardmore, what kind of class schedules are the most accessible and what kind of post-high school education interests them. Participants are divided into four groups. Current students are their own category.
“They know something about this place,” Maher said. “They have a little bit of a different perspective.”
High school students in area schools will participate as well. Maher said the survey has questions pertaining to vocational or technical school and other career paths.
“They’re thinking about college now and we want to know what exactly they’re thinking,” Maher said.
The third category includes key public figures, people who are business owners, parents, human resource workers or are otherwise active in the community.
“They’re people who aren’t necessarily interested for themselves, but they know something about what the community needs,” Maher said.
The last category, the general public, is a new category. 2007’s community assessment only questioned the first three groups. Maher said the general public’s input is vital to the survey.
“They may be thinking about college, they may not be, but we’d still like to hear their voice,” Maher said.
Maher said the university center is also looking into adding more continuing education courses, something the community assessment touches on.
“It’s a lot more efficient if we can offer it when people want it, rather than just offer it and see who comes,” Maher said.
The center ran and analyzed a similar community needs assessment survey in 2007. The survey had more open ended questions, which have been removed this time around.
“We’re kind of applying what we learned from the last one to this one,” Maher said.
In 2007, a large chunk of high schoolers responded that they were interested in business and the health care field, but roughly a third were undecided. College students had similar priorities, but also answered that they were interested in the education field. Interest in language courses and STEM subjects were high as well.
“We can go out and use this data to persuade our partners, or to create new partnerships to fill those needs for the program here,” Maher said.
The current survey is online and will continue until the end of the month. Maher said the university center may extend the survey into November depending on how many people respond. All four surveys are online at http://www.ucso.osrhe.edu/ under the Important Links heading.