By Conrad Dudderar
Southwestern Oklahoma State University has partnered with Yukon Public Schools for the three years to provide YPS students and employees with access to quality higher education in Canadian County.
Dr. Joel Kendall, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at SWOSU, described a flourishing partnership during a presentation at the July 10th YPS Board of Education meeting.
Kendall outlined four “strategies” that SWOSU has implemented with YPS that have proven beneficial to both students and staff – and the Yukon community.
“We appreciate the opportunity work with Yukon on those, and we’ll just find ways to expand those going forward,” he told YPS board members.
The SWOSU/YPS partnership features two concurrent programs, which Kendall said have been successful.
“Just this past year, at least 300 students took a face-to-face course with Southwestern,” he said. “We predict that this year, in ’23-’24, about 500 students will take at least one (SWOSU) course while they’re still in high school.”
In the dual credit concurrent program, a qualified and degreed YPS teacher may become a SWOSU professor.
SWOSU will credential that teacher, whose class becomes a Southwestern class rather than a high school class.
“We started that in fall 2021,” Kendall shared. “In the first full year that we offered that in 2021-22, we had 156 students take Southwestern courses under that program. We had 11 teachers credentialed as ‘dual credit’ teachers.”
The total increased to 237 students in the 2022-23 school year.
SWOSU also partners with YPS on its traditional concurrent program.
“We bring in a full-time Southwestern professor onto the YPS campus and teach students mostly general education courses,” Kendall explained. “The first semester we tried that was in spring ’22 and we had 16 students.
“So far for this fall, we have 178 students enrolled. … We are experiencing ‘growing pains’ because that is really ‘taking off’.”
HELPING YPS STAFF
SWOSU works with Yukon school district employees seeking to obtain their bachelor’s degrees. Six employees completed their degrees in the past year and another 24 are now enrolled in the program.
“Most of those are paraprofessionals,” Dr. Kendall explained. “So, upon degree completion, then they can work toward credentialing to become teachers in the classroom.”
SWOSU also has a master’s-level degree completion program for any YPS employee who already has a bachelor’s degree.
In the past three years, some 48 YPS employees have obtained their master’s degrees from Southwestern – with another 60 enrolled in that program.
“Most of these are Yukon Public School teachers or staff who (are seeking) an education administration degree – letting them further their career,” Kendall said.
YPS Board of Education Member Leonard Wells agreed that the SWOSU partnership has been successful for the Yukon school district.
“I hope it continues on,” Wells said.
‘EARLY COLLEGE’ PROGRAM
The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education allows students selected in eighth grade to take courses in ninth through 12th grades through an “early college” program.
SWOSU offers free tuition up to 18 hours for high school seniors and 18 hours for juniors.
“If a person is going to go for a 60-hour associate degree, that leaves 24 hours out there that we won’t cover or the state won’t cover,” Kendall noted.
“To be entered into this program with the Regents, the school district has to say those students aren’t going to have to pay a dime in tuition. And they have to provide a plan for that. Right now, YPS and Southwestern are working on how to make that possible.”
There is a large, expensive hurdle to cross before YPS students can participate in this early college program.
“It’s really dependent on the funding,” YPS Assistant Superintendent Diana Lebsack noted. “Originally, we had slated for 30 students. We’re just examining the financial responsibility of taking that on.
“We’re working with Southwestern’s grant writer to try to secure the funding because you cannot even apply for the early college graduation program without the funding in place.”