2018 Almanac - Page 3

Higher education leaders in Texas must respond to these concerns, not only in words but also in deeds. As I write,
groups of higher education leaders are working to improve transfer policy and practice and to expand student advising
and counseling in both face-to-face and online formats. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is convening
faculty groups to consider how marketable skills can be incorporated into the curriculum across all majors, especially
the liberal arts.
For Texas higher education leaders, the complaints and concerns expressed across the state cannot be ignored. Parents
complained about the deficiency of transfer policies that result in the loss of academic credit — and increased cost
— as students move from one institution to another. Academic, financial, and career counseling on college campuses
were described as being inadequate, if not altogether unavailable. Business leaders noted recurrently that graduates
of both two- and four-year institutions often lacked critical thinking and communication skills, not to mention strong
work habits. The affordability of higher education was another prime topic everywhere, to the point that many
participants in the regional meetings questioned whether higher education was truly worth the cost.
After a culminating statewide meeting in Austin, the three agencies issued a report. Its title, Prosperity Requires Being
Bold, nicely captures its key idea: Texas cannot reach its education and workforce goals doing business as usual.
Representatives of the three agencies convened meetings of education, business, political, and community leaders
in every region of Texas to gather information and recommendations related to the governor’s charges. Texans had
plenty to say. They enthusiastically endorsed 60x30TX even as they noted how far we have to go to achieve its
primary goals. Like Gov. Abbott, they emphasized the need to increase collaboration among the three agencies and
to strike a balance between academic and professional training on the one hand and career and technical education
on the other. Business leaders from El Paso to Tyler underscored the need to incorporate marketable skills into the
educational experiences of all college students, regardless of major. They expressed great concern for academic quality
and rigor throughout the educational pipeline and advocated for expanding educational opportunities for the 60
percent of public K–12 students who are poor. And everywhere we went, we heard concerns about the rising cost of
higher education and the enduring burden of student debt.
In the spring of 2016, Gov. Greg Abbott charged three state agencies, the Texas Education Agency, the
Texas Workforce Commission, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, with developing a set of
recommendations that would create greater collaboration among them, raise educational attainment and economic
competitiveness, and place Texas on a clear path to achieving the goals of the state’s higher education strategic plan,
60x30TX, whose major goal is that 60 percent of young Texans will hold a certificate or degree by 2030.
Letter from the Commissioner
Certainly one of the most gratifying outcomes of the tri-agency regional meetings has been the recognition of the
need for more public/private partnerships across Texas. Corporate leaders recently joined with the heads of the
three agencies to announce the launch of the Texas Internship Challenge, a campaign to expand the number of
paid internships across the state available to college students. And the 85th Texas Legislature, currently in session
as I write, is considering a bill called “Texas Works,” which would expand the number of off-campus work-study
positions available to college students and would be funded jointly by the state, businesses, and community-based
organizations. Everybody wins through initiatives like this: Financial aid dollars are stretched further, students acquire
invaluable workforce skills, and college costs are held down.
To borrow a phrase, achieving the goals of 60x30TX requires being bold. As you will note in the following pages,
educational improvement in Texas is steady but slow, too slow to reach the goals of 60x30TX. Too few students
of color, and poor students in general, achieve a postsecondary credential of any type; too few Texas high school
graduates enroll in higher education relative to projected workforce needs; and six-year university graduation rates are
still only at 59 percent — again, well below projected workforce needs.
We Texans must embrace boldness and innovation and quicken the pace on our way to 2030. By achieving the goals
of 60x30TX, we will be able to look back and say we did some extraordinary things for the young people and the
future of Texas.
Raymund A. Paredes, Ph.D.
Commissioner of Higher Education


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