By Tim Farley, News Editor – Oklahoma State University ranked as the top school where Redlands Community College students transfer, according to figures from the National Student Clearinghouse.
Southwestern Oklahoma State University was second followed by the University of Central Oklahoma and the University of Oklahoma.
The data was provided by RCC President Jack Bryant to the Redlands Board of Regents in anticipation of the required merger between two and four-year schools. The requirement is part of a consolidation plan for Oklahoma’s higher education institutions as lawmakers and Gov. Mary Fallin attempt to decrease expenses in all state agencies.
Transfer data during a five-year period shows 943 Redlands students transferred to OSU while 924 went to SWOSU followed by 759 to UCO and 504 to OU.
However, Bryant said the transfer information is only the beginning of data sharing with the regents.
“They also want to look at degree transfers and where students went with or without a declared major,” he said. “They want to see how our degree programs align with the four highest schools.”
At this point, the Redlands regents are not leaning toward any of the top four schools as a merger partner, Bryant said.
Two-year community colleges must voluntarily partner with a four-year university by June 2019. After that, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education will assign schools to each other.
“They (RCC regents) want me to open a dialogue with all three of those boards to see what type of partnership there might be with a concentration on the four schools – OSU, OU, Southwestern and UCO,” Bryant said.
The three boards Bryant referred to are the Oklahoma A&M Colleges Board of Regents, the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents and the Independent Board of Regents which oversees six regional colleges and universities, including UCO and SWOSU. Four other regional universities are out of Redlands’ geographical area.
During the Jan. 11 meeting of the Redlands regents, board members, including board chairman Richard Ruhl said they intend to make their merger decision based on what’s best for the students, staff and to keep the college’s mission of open access and low cost at the forefront.
“The regents want transparency to be at the front of the process and to receive public feedback,” Bryant said.
The five-year transfer information also shows 1,643 Redlands students transferred to Oklahoma A&M colleges, which are OSU, Connors State College, NEO A&M College, Panhandle State University, OSU-OKC and OSU-Institute for Technology in Okmulgee.
In addition, 576 Redlands students transferred to schools under the purview of the OU Board of Regents. Those schools are OU, Cameron University, Rogers State University and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
The data also shows 1,935 students transferred to regional colleges and universities under the control of the Independent Board of Regents. Those schools are SWOSU, UCO, East Central University in Ada, Northeastern State University, Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva and Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant.
Redlands Community College will merge some of its business operations, and possibly some of its academic programs, with a four-year school by June 30, 2019. If RCC regents decide to merge with a regional university such as Southwestern, that decision would require approval from the state legislature since Redlands was created by law.
Bryant and Southwestern President Randy Beutler confirmed they have discussed the merger requirement. Bryant said he intends to have conversations with UCO President Don Betz and representatives from OU and OSU.
Last year, Fallin issued an executive order that requires higher education institutions to reduce costs. In addition, a higher education task force has aimed in its work since early 2017 to develop recommendations that will lead to lower costs for colleges and universities.
One of the recommendations is that two-year community colleges merge operations with a four-year university.
The final list of task force recommendations will be made to the Oklahoma Board of Regents for Higher Education on Jan. 31. The regents will vote on the recommendations the following day.