Redlands Community College President Jack Bryant said he expects the process to be “open” concerning a proposal that could see the two-year school merge its board with a four-year school.
Bryant made the comment after El Reno Mayor Matt White began calling RCC regents and state lawmakers pushing for the process to be more open.
A task force created by Oklahoma’s Higher Regents recently ordered RCC and several other two-year colleges to develop a plan for merging their boards with either a regional university or the University of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State University. The proposal must be approved by the Higher Regents as well as the state Legislature. The task force recommendation is that the mergers take place by June 30, 2019.
The task force was formed after Gov. Mary Fallin issued an executive order calling for administrative consolidation of Oklahoma’s higher education institutions.
When the task force report was made public, Redlands issued the following statement after being contacted by the El Reno Tribune:
“The recommendations put forth by the four subcommittees were presented to the task force as a whole and their recommendations were voted on and forwarded to the State Regents Board for their consideration.
“Redlands Community College has enjoyed a strong relationship with its regional university partners for many years, working together to help students make a smooth transition from a two-year program to a four-year institution. We, along with our regional university partners, are committed to continuing to provide access to high-quality instruction and services to help all of our students earn a degree and be well prepared for a competitive job market.
“We are dedicated to making every effort to maximize efficiencies and provide cost-saving measures through shared services and operations. The task force’s efforts, along with our institutional partnerships, will ensure our system of higher education develops an even more cost-effective model to serve our students and the citizens of Oklahoma.”
“This is a big issue, not only for El Reno but for all of Canadian County and even further,” White said. “El Reno, Yukon and Mustang send a lot of students to Redlands. Education is vital to our communities and our region. It’s one of the main economic engines that helps us move forward.”
White pointed to the “success of OSU-OKC” as a model Redlands may want to consider.
“Look at what OSU-OKC has meant for all of Oklahoma City. Why couldn’t OU do the same thing for El Reno, Yukon and Mustang and further,” he said. “I’m not saying it has to be OU, but the public deserves to know who has an interest in being involved with this. It’s too important for our future.”
White said he started pushing for more openness after hearing a deal may already have been made. He said he tried several times to contact Bryant without success. Bryant said he had not heard from White.
“I’ve heard they have been talking with Southwestern,” White said, referring to Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford.
“There’s nothing wrong with Southwestern, but it certainly doesn’t have the branding power that OU carries.
“The bottom line is this is something that needs some out-of-the-box thinking. We need to think long-term and not just how to find a fix.” He said RCC officials are right to look for the best “fit” for students in terms of cost, but that the solution should also look at bringing more opportunities as well.
“I just want more voices at the table because this is a very important issue for our students as well as our communities.”
Bryant said he expects the process will become more open, but that will be a decision made by the RCC Board of Regents. He said for now, data is being collected that shows where RCC students have transferred to over the past five years. Bryant said that information will be turned over to RCC Regents at the board’s January meeting.
The timeline is for the task force recommendations to be voted on by the Higher Regents in February and then if accepted, forwarded to the state Legislature for final approval.