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Higher Education

In Texas, 51.5 percent of first time students at Texas two-year colleges are not college ready.i
Additionally, only 37.7 percent of the college aged population (18-24) was enrolled in college or
graduate school between 2009 and 2013ii White students had a 68.3 percent graduation rate,
Hispanic students have a six-year graduation rate of 52.7 percent, and African Americans have a
41.5 percent graduation rate.iii Finally, Texas college graduates have an average student loan debt of
25,244.iv
In spite of these numbers that demonstrate that Texas needs to improve its higher education system
and curb the skyrocketing rate of college tuition, the 84th Legislature failed to take any meaningful
action and instead spent time debating issues like carrying handguns on college campuses.
A successful Texas higher education system is necessary to build an educated workforce and secure
continued economic prosperity for all residents of our state. An individual who successfully obtains a
postsecondary education has a greater opportunity for higher personal incomes and is less likely to rely
on public assistance. Further, highly educated communities experience lower unemployment rates, a
broader tax base, and reduced crime rates.
In 2000, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board launched Closing the Gaps by 2015, a statewide
strategic plan for higher education, in an effort to help Texas reach national parity in participation,
success, excellence, and research.
Research shows that if Texas meets its goals, the Texas economy will experience by 2030 estimated
increases of:
$489 billion in total spending,
$194 billion in gross state product,
$122 billion in personal income, and
1 million new jobs.v
However, after years of trying to open the doors of higher education to all students who sought a
postsecondary education, state policies are once again pricing out families who rely on affordability and
financial aid to realize that dream. Over the last 12 years, the cost of higher education has skyrocketed
and financial assistance has not kept pace with the need.
Tuition Deregulation
Prior to 2003, the Texas Legislature, elected by voters, was tasked with setting tuition levels for state
universities and appropriating sufficient funds to those universities. However, when the Republican
legislature faced a multibillion dollar budget deficit in 2003, they decided to not properly funds Texas
colleges and instead allow unelected boards of regents to set higher tuition rates to make up for the
Republican budget shortfall.
Community and technical college tuitions are also set by their governing boards but within statutory
requirements. Tuition deregulation legislation also required higher education institutions to set aside a
minimum amount for financial assistance to students in need.
According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the statewide average total academic
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charges for a student taking 15 credit hours at a public university increased by 104 percent from fall
2003 through fall 2013. vi
Accessibility to Universities and Financial Aid
While enrollment growth continues, the pace has slowed. A major goal set for Closing the Gaps is to
increase enrollment rates for minority students. The THECB predicts that Texas will meet enrollment
goals by number, but will fall short among Hispanic enrollment.vii Trends are also showing the gender
gap is increasing. The overall female participation is 6.8% of their population, which is 1.7 percentage
points above the male rate and is higher in Hispanic and African American populations.viii
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board reported approximately 1.44 million students were
enrolled in Fall 2012 in Texas public institutions of higher education, with over 51% in two-year
institutions.ix However, in Fall 2012, two-year public institutions showed a decrease in enrollment for
the first time since Texas adopted Closing the Gaps.
In order to continue to increase enrollment and success rates, Texas will need to broaden financial
assistance and recruitment to assist non-traditional students in attaining a postsecondary education.
Once enrolled, Texas students living in poverty struggle with the highest level of unmet need compared
to those living above the poverty threshold. Texas undergraduates at four-year institutions living below
poverty had annual unmet need reaching $9,480, while higher-income students had less than $6,000 in
unmet need.x
With a higher unmet need, students from poverty must cover tuition through loans, work, and other
institutional aid. Even with financial aid, the gap between federal aid and college costs is 73 percent or
more than $14,600 for students at public four-year institutions.
Campus Carry
The 84th Legislature did spend time approving legislation to allow the carrying of concealed weapons on
college campuses (84R SB 11 RV#1763 HJ 5723). This has the potential to create a more dangerous
environment on college campuses, and make it more difficult for officers responding to a shooting to
discern between a shooter and a license holder. Further, it would make it more difficult for Texas
universities to attract, recruit and retain the best and brightest faculty members that would
understandably be concerned about college students carrying handguns into class.

i Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Texas Public Higher Education Almanac. (2014). Online. Available at:

http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/index.cfm?objectId=CE293EED-DD31-BCDE51EB322FF8B856A8&flushcache=1&showDraft=1.Page 13.
ii The US Census. American Fact Finder: School Enrollment: 2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. (2009-

2013). Online. Available at http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml". Accessed February 7, 2015.


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Project on Student Debt. Student Debt and the Class of 2013. (November 2014). Online. Available at:
http://projectonstudentdebt.org/files/pub/classof2013.pdf. Page 5.
v The Ray Perryman Group, A Tale of Two StatesAnd One Million Jobs!!: An Analysis of the Economic Benefits of Achieving the
Future Goals of the Closing the Gaps Initiative of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, March 2007. Figures are in
2006 Dollars.
vi Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Overview: Tuition Deregulation. March 2011. Pg. 2. Available online at
http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/reports/PDF/3369.PDF
vii Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Enrollment Forecast 2013-2020. January 2013. Available online at
http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/reports/PDF/2964.PDF?CFID=9960699&CFTOKEN=67789689.
viii Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Closing the Gaps Spring 2013 Progress Report. June 2013. Pg. 4. Available
online at www.thecb.state.tx.us/reports/PDF/3114.PDF
ix Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Enrollment Forecast 2013-2020. January 2013. Available online at
http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/reports/PDF/2964.PDF?CFID=9960699&CFTOKEN=67789689.
x ID pg. 16

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