The Council on Information Technology (CoIT) of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education recently hosted the 2023 Oklahoma Higher Ed IT Summit, where more than 20 institutions from across the great Sooner State came together to collaborate on improving their practices and working together to modernize, innovate, and elevate Oklahoma higher education for tomorrow’s workforce. As technology leaders and administrators arrived at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Oklahoma, they were greeted by the chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, who gave a compelling keynote speech outlining the state’s strategic plan, “Blueprint 2030.” The plan is built upon the four pillars of producing workforce-ready graduates, growing the student pipeline, focusing on student success, and improving system efficiency and effectiveness. More information on the plan can be found here.
Chancellor Allison D. Garrett spoke about the tremendous opportunity for enrollment growth in Oklahoma, noting the half-million adults in the state who have started but never completed a college education. She also revealed that, while Oklahoma as a state sits near the bottom of federal funding at 47 out of 50 states, Oklahoma students leave more than $63 million on the table each year in available grants. Oklahoma aims to pass legislation, following other states like Texas, requiring high school students to complete a FAFSA as part of their graduation requirements. The hope is that more students will discover how affordable a college education in Oklahoma can be…which will lead to enrollment and more workforce-ready graduates.
Throughout the conference, institutions gathered to discuss best practices in data, modernization, putting people first, student-centered innovation, and emerging technologies. Presentations covering a host of topics—including data governance, change management, ChatGPT, AI, student success, and leadership principles—filled the classrooms at UCO as a genuine attitude of collaboration, even amongst competitor institutions, demonstrated the state’s authentic desire to improve higher education for everyone. All levels of leadership, from CIOs to support staff, joined in sharing their knowledge and skills with captivated audiences throughout the two-day event.
Some vendors were present, including Ellucian, which hosted a workshop for several institutions, including some that have joined forces to move to Ellucian Colleague to modernize their student, finance, and HCM systems in a cost-effective manner. ERP admins and functional users were invited to share concerns and best practices from navigating their first few years on the system. While the implementation has not been without its challenges, Ellucian doubled down on its commitment to serve the institutions well and work toward finding solutions to common issues.
While Oklahoma may not receive the same level of federal support as many other states in the US, it is certainly not short on leadership, innovation, and collaboration. The two-day event was chock full of great ideas and innovations that will surely be taken back to institutions across the state in an effort to better serve current and future Oklahoma students. The future of higher education is bright in the Sooner State!
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