Economic growth from agriculture development in the Panhandle during the past 10 years has benefited Oklahoma Panhandle State University, while also encouraging future growth in the region, reports Shawn Lepard, Executive director of Plains Residents Organization for Ag Growth (ProAg).

"Having a four-year university in the region helped bring development into the area and will spur future opportunities for economic development," said Lepard. "The university is providing a first class education for local residents who will succeed in today's worldwide workplace."

Oklahoma Panhandle State University President Dr. John Goodwin predicts the institution will reap the benefits as the community employment and population stabilize.

The general economic improvement and the tight job market in the area has actually created a competition for students," he says. "So, the university enrollment hasn't increased with the population, but we think there will be a significant increase in enrollment down the road."

However, Goodwin expects a greater impact from the local population boom in the 1990s to hit the university in about five to seven years. "Many people who moved into the area in the past 10 years came with young children," he explains. "As those children grow older and graduate from high school, we will see our enrollment increase. That should happen in the next seven years."

In the meantime, the university's academic vice president notes the strong local economy provides more opportunities for students who want to work and also attend school. "The growth of livestock agriculture in this region has provided opportunities for receiving a higher education, while working," says Dr. Dale Goldsmith. "I taught a class of 12 last semester, and I know of at least one student who worked nights at Seaboard Farms and was able to attend school in the day."

In addition, Panhandle State University is shifting its resources to meet the changing educational needs of the High Plains, and in particular the three counties in Oklahoma Panhandle.

"We have changed our philosophy regarding adult continuing education," Goldsmith says. "We have changed those courses from leisure type activities to more business oriented courses, such as banking, paralegal and language courses."

Goodwin notes the addition of a program for people who want to teach English to students of another language. "We are the only institution in Oklahoma offering an undergraduate degree in teaching English as a second language," he says.

The university also beefed up its computer sciences programs. "Our computer information systems students have won top awards five consecutive years, in a national competition, held by the professional association for business computer applications," Goodwin says.

"We have extremely good academic programs," he says. "And very caring faculty."

For more information regarding enrollment or available courses, call the admissions office of Oklahoma Panhandle State University, at 580-349-2611.

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