Trustees | Costs

USAO President: Focus on Quality Seldom Leads to Troubling Results

THE OKLAHOMAN   |  July 20, 2013 by John Feaver

As reported in “Oklahoma schools fare well in new federal college cost data” (News, July 7), tuition and mandatory fee increases for fiscal year 2014 at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma leaves the college with one of the lowest net prices in the nation. The net price figure is based upon not only tuition and mandatory fees but all other add-on fees as well. One of the reasons USAO is such a bargain is that its add-on fees are minimal.

Recognition for being cost-efficient is gratifying. Nevertheless, as happens often in discussions about higher education in Oklahoma, there’s virtually no mention of the quality or the value of the educational experience. Preoccupation with numbers of students and numbers of degrees tends to dominate discourse. Producing degrees and enrolling masses of students, however, is but a part of the quality and value that Oklahoma needs.

Focusing simply on numbers rather than quality can lead to troubling results. Preoccupation with quality, however, seldom leads to troubling results.

Nationally, USAO gets significant independent and unsolicited recognition for the quality of its academic programs. USAO is the only college in Oklahoma (and one of only 21 in the nation) to receive an “A” rating for the quality of its core curriculum by the prestigious American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine ranks USAO in its top 100 public colleges and universities for cost and quality. The Washington Monthly rates USAO’s national liberal arts status third in the nation in promoting upward social mobility.

National recognition is conferred upon unusual quality. USAO has never wavered from the goal of quality and value. Our freshman English courses are taught exclusively by holders of the Ph.D. in sections of 20 or fewer students. More than 90 percent of our full-time teaching faculty have terminal degrees in their fields.

USAO has the highest admissions requirements in Oklahoma. Accordingly, USAO’s faculty hold students to the most rigorous standards. Students who do well at USAO have excelled and will excel in graduate or professional schools. Our full-time teaching faculty hail from Harvard and Yale, from Stanford, British universities and other public and private institutions in 21 states, including several from the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.

Despite our embarrassingly low salaries, USAO has been able to hire its No. 1 choice from virtually every national search conducted during the past three years. This success speaks volumes about the excitement that USAO’s faculty, student body, curriculum and academic culture generate in candidates.

USAO does all this on a meager budget that emphasizes the quality of academic instruction over public display. USAO deserves recognition for more than its reasonable cost.

Feaver is president of USAO in Chickasha.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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