New Higher Education Option Comes to Oklahoma City

A long-time house of entertainment is now a house of education.  The former Brixton Square Cinema near the intersection of Northwest Expressway and Rockwell is the newest campus of the Brown Mackie College system of schools.

Enrollment is underway and the first day of classes will be August 1, 2011.  The College occupies about 35,000 square feet, with room to grow.

Dr. Debi O’Dea is Campus President and new to Oklahoma.  “Brown Mackie has 27 campuses across 15 states.  Being in a progressive community where we can contribute to the academic and the skill knowledge of the community is important to us,” she said.

Brown Mackie is not new to Oklahoma. A Tulsa campus was opened three years ago and is doing well, according to Dr. O’Dea. “Oklahoma City is – oh my gosh, look at all of the great things going for Oklahoma. It’s been identified as one of the best top places to live.  It’s got a low unemployment rate, progressive in terms of companies moving into the area. And there is a lot of really good quality, high demand fields coming here and we can help train,” she said.

Brown Mackie College – Oklahoma City will offer associate’s degree programs in areas of study including health care, legal, business, and computers.

Dr. O’Dea refers to students as “customers” who receive individual screening and attention. She said the College works with businesses and agencies in the area to help students who might have need of child care options or employment while attending classes.

She said, “Often what we find is those outside life demands, issues or barriers are the things that cause a student to drop out of school.” Brown Mackie College has a team which includes faculty on campus, at the corporate headquarters, and community contacts designed to help students overcome or resolve challenges to their education.

The school’s education model is designed to work with student availability and offers one class per month.

“They can come here, be full-time students and concentrate on taking just one course per month, be done and then move on,” Dr. O’Dea said. “We need to do anything we can do, obviously with integrity and with quality, to make sure we help them succeed to reach their goal of graduating and change their lives.”

The philosophy of Brown Mackie’s education model is what attracted the Oklahoma City campus dean to the for-profit system of schools. Dr. M. Lee Niles said the nurturing of students is of priority. “Many of our students come less than prepared with the ideal set of criteria,” he said. Dr. Niles said Brown Mackie provides administrators, faculty and staff the means with which students can be helped. He said tutoring, individual attention, and small classes are examples.

“As long as they commit to the effort, then we will go the extra mile,” he said. “Computerization, reading skills, writing, mathematics – those are the real challenges.  And once you can get them over those hurdles then they can many times excel.”

Dr. Niles hesitates to call his students rough jewels, but said, “We just have to clean away the exterior and get to the point they can understand there is a career, a real opportunity for personal success and personal growth at the end of that mission or pathway.”

While Brown Mackie College – Oklahoma City recruits and screens potential faculty and students, its parent company, Education Management Corporation faces an employee whistle-blower lawsuit which was recently joined by the U.S. Justice Department. The suit alleges the company illegally paid recruiters based on the number of students they enrolled.

Published news reports about the lawsuit quote a statement released by Education Management Corporation’s board of directors which calls the suit “unwarranted and without merit.”

“The company denies any allegation of misconduct and plans to present a vigorous defense against this action.”

While not directly referring to the lawsuit, Oklahoma City campus president Dr. Debi O’Dea said Brown Mackie recruits “graduates.” She said people who want to enroll are thoroughly screened to see if the school and courses provided are a good fit in order to assure each student will achieve an associate’s degree.

Dr. O’Dea said, “We’re here for our students to graduate and get a good job that can change their life.”

For more information about Brown Mackie College – Oklahoma City, visit the school website.