Board of Regents
The Board of Regents for Oklahoma State and A&M Colleges met on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. (Kayla Dunn)

The Board of Regents for the Oklahoma Agricultural & Mechanical Colleges approved a historic academic partnership between Oklahoma State University, Langston University and OSU Center for Health Sciences on Friday.

The partnership is a collaboration to start a master’s of nursing program as well as an Africana studies program in Tulsa. Under the partnership, Langston will offer only bachelor’s degrees and two master’s degrees in rehabilitative services at their Tulsa campus, and it will cease to offer all other degree programs in Tulsa. Additionally, OSU will pay Langston $15 million over the next 10 years, allowing OSU to pick up any of Langston’s discontinued degrees.

At the regents meeting on Friday, Langston President Kent Smith explained that he and OSU Center for Health Sciences President Kayse Shrum conceived the idea by happenstance while sitting next to each other at a board meeting. They to discuss ways to get Langston students to OSU medical school.

“Ultimately, we began with some different plans,” Smith said. “I have to thank President Shrum for being open and receptive to some type of partnership with Langston, because, in truth, that’s where this all started.”

The partnership between OSU, OSU-CHS and Langston also ends a decades long dispute between the two Tulsa campuses. In 2003, The Office of Civil Rights set out to close a complaint from Langston’s alumni association regarding discrimination through underfunding to Langston’s Tulsa program and concerns regarding overlap between the programs. This partnership allows OSU-CHS to offer a wider array of degree programs and build new ones with Langston.

“I firmly believe that this is a good opportunity for Langston University to move forward,” Smith said. “I think it will afford us a great opportunity to put our best days in front of us.”

The Oklahoma Board of Regents for Oklahoma State and A&M College approved the partnership unanimously. Regent Rick Davis took time to congratulate the universities on coming together to create a mutually beneficial partnership.

“This is monumental for Langston, OSU and Tulsa, so thank you for your efforts,” Davis said. “I realize there were a lot of blood, sweat and tears over the agreement.

“The partnership forged between Langston University and Oklahoma State University opens a new era of academic cooperation and collaboration in Tulsa,” Davis concluded.

Colleges report COVID-19 impact

At the meeting, Oklahoma Panhandle State University, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, Connors State College, OSU and Langston also reported on COVID-19’s impact on their campuses.

In regard to student life on campus, Langston University requested to modify the Student Government Association activities fee from $102.64 to $70 for the 2020-2021 academic year. Smith explained that the SGA recommended this amendment because of a decrease in programming opportunities as a result of COVID-19. The budget decrease will result in a reimbursement to Langston students’ bursar accounts.

NEO requested to approve two U.S. Department of Education grants totaling just over $3 million. The second grant of $1.5 million will finance science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) class conversions to hybrid online formatting. The transfer to hybrid learning is necessary because of COVID-19’s impact on students’ ability to attend in-person classes.

Langston also received a $1.3 million U.S. Department of Education grant to expand student support services on camps.

Despite concerns about COVID-19, enrollment numbers at Oklahoma Panhandle State University have continued to rise for the third year in a row. Langston and OSU have also maintained increasing enrollment.

Connors State College, however, reported a 5.5% decrease in enrollment. Connors President Ronald Ramming largely credited the drop in enrollment to COVID-19’s impact on public primary schools in Oklahoma. He explained that because local elementary and middle schools had been moved to online classes, parents of young children were deterred from enrolling.

The next Oklahoma Board of Regents for Oklahoma State and A&M Colleges will be held on Oct. 23 at Oklahoma State University’s Stillwater campus.