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'There's still a lot to do': Hargis discusses goals for OSU

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OSU President Burns Hargis poses for a portrait in Old Central.

Editor's Note: Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis sat down on Feb. 19 to talk about race issues on college campuses, good music and his time here at OSU. In this last installment of a three-part series, we'll delve into Hargis' plans for the future.

This spring marks Hargis’ 11th year as the President of OSU, a position the past six OSU presidents have held for an average of 9 years each. When asked about plans to retire anytime soon, Hargis paused.

“Well at some point you have to,” Hargis said. “But I’ve got a lot to do.”

Leaning back in his chair, Hargis chuckled to himself at the notion of retiring and began running through a laundry list of goals he plans to accomplish before throwing in the towel.

Overall, Hargis has two major goals. First, he said he wants to improve the freshman to sophomore retention rate. Second, he said he wants to run a campaign for need-based scholarships.

OSU has a freshman to sophomore retention rate of 81 percent, according to a study done by College Factual. Nationally, the same retention rate is 72 percent, so, while OSU is above average nationally, Hargis said he wants better for freshman attending OSU.

“We can do better,” Hargis said.

He went on to explain the repercussions for dropping out of college, wasted time and money being at the top. Hargis seeks to create an environment the vast majority of students not only want to stay in but can afford to stay in.

To help students financially, Hargis plans to raise $100 million to $200 million for need-based scholarships through a massive fundraising campaign.

“We need to,” Hargis said. “I don't want kids graduating with a lot of debt.”

Hargis said he understands the importance and necessity of having need-based scholarships available. In 2010, Hargis aided in the fundraising campaign “Branding Success,” which announced in December 2014 that it had raised $1.2 billion for OSU, which was $200 million above the original goal and two years ahead of schedule.

Hargis has a history of bold initiatives and philanthropic success at OSU. Having dedicated 11 years of service to OSU, he plans to continue doing so alongside First Cowgirl Ann Hargis and Scruff, their dog.

“I love it here, my wife loves it here and Scruff loves it here,” Hargis said.

Smiling contently, Hargis thought back over his years at OSU before laughing and quoting the American comedian George Burns.

“George Burns said, ‘Always leave the stage while they're still applauding,’” Hargis said. “I don’t know if they’re still applauding, but there's still a lot to do.”