Rep. Sean Roberts presses measures to increase college graduates, use TSET funds for endowed chairs
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Published: 19-Feb-2015
OKLAHOMA CITY -- State Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, is pushing a proposal he says, through a House staff press release, would “support the governor’s goal of increasing college graduates in Oklahoma, an initiative that would benefit all Oklahoman's.”

House Bill 1733 would create the Oklahoma Community College Scholarship Act and a trust fund managed by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. The plan is intended, House staff said, to help families bear the burden of a good education while at the same time allowing students the opportunity to own their education. The idea is to allocate funds to those who need it most.

The measure would use lottery funds that are already flowing to higher education, setting aside around 20 percent of the money to aid in the completion of an associate’s degree or vocational degree or certification. The House staff concluded it would “allow many Oklahoman's to meet the ever growing need for jobs that Gov. Mary Fallin spoke about in her State of the State address.

In that address, delivered early this month, Fallin noted, “Forty-nine percent of jobs five years from now will require a workforce credential or associate’s degree, but only 24 percent of Oklahoman's have one. If we don’t address that skills gap, those jobs will go elsewhere.”

In comments sent to CapitolBeatOK, Roberts said, “I fully support Governor Fallin’s goal of increasing the number of college graduates in Oklahoma. I would like to see more aid for working families. With the cost of college these days, it is not only low-income families that need our support. I would use lottery funds to provide the support that all Oklahoma families also need.”

H.B. 1733 was approved in subcommittee by a vote of 9-0 and now goes to the full budget panel where Roberts said he hopes it will pass and be on its way to creating a brighter, more educated Oklahoma.

In other news from Rep. Roberts, on Wednesday (February 18) he advanced a measure to “pioneer new research in the fight against cancer” – namely a proposal to access some of the state’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET).

Roberts proposes to use some of the TST resources to “increase the quality of Oklahoma medical schools and stimulate medical research,” a staff release said. 

Roberts’ purpose is to help pay for higher education endowed chairs endowment chairs directly related to research, treatment, and prevention of tobacco-related illnesses.

“Although higher education receives funding, endowed chairs have been underfunded for several years.  House Bill 1732 creates a new funding stream for endowed chairs related to improving the health of Oklahomans. “All Oklahoman’s want to see health outcomes in Oklahoma improve. It is clear that putting more money into higher education in the area of fighting tobacco-related diseases would go a long way towards accomplishing that goal.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contend even a modest reduction in adult and youth smoking could result in nearly $1 billion in long-term health care cost savings.

H.B. 1732 would allow higher education institutions to use 2 percent of the annual TSET earnings to pay for the identified endowed chairs.

The proposal gained 7-2 consent in subcommittee and now heads to the full House Budget panel. Roberts said, “I hope my colleagues and Governor Fallin will support this proposal. It is a constitutionally appropriate use of the trust fund. With their support, we could make some progress even in this tough budget year.”

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