Okla. panel OKs merger of college governing boards

A higher education task force has approved a plan to move seven of Oklahoma’s community colleges under the authority of larger governing boards.

A task force has approved a plan to move seven of Oklahoma’s higher education institutions under the authority of larger governing boards.

The recommendation approved last week will be presented to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, possibly as early as February.

If approved, the schools’ governing boards would have until June 2019 to merge with one of three larger boards: the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents, the Oklahoma State University and A&M Colleges Board of Regents, or the Regional University System of Oklahoma Board of Regents.

Supporters and opponents

Critics of the plan are concerned the change would increase tuition costs at the two-year colleges and wouldn’t help students.

“I believe local governance is important in these community colleges. They have different student bodies they deal with,” said Bill Anoatubby, governor of the Chickasaw Nation. “I believe this will be counterproductive in the long term.”

Officials in favor of merging the governing boards said it could help students make an easier transition to a four-year institution.

“I know this system can work,” Oklahoma Regent Andy Leste said. “The trick then is to make sure it does.”

The plan was approved by the state’s 60-member task force on the future of higher education. The campuses that would be affected are Carl Albert State College, Eastern Oklahoma State College, Murray State College, Redlands Community College, Seminole State College, Western Oklahoma State College and the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

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