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Deep in the Heart of Texas Higher Education

Deep in the Heart of Texas Higher Education

We are “on the road again” with our state editions and, as evident by our cover, we are focusing on the state of Texas.

First, let me add a disclaimer. When we embark on these editions, it’s impossible to cover an entire state and feature every college and university. We aim to highlight a few schools and cover a relevant and timely public policy matter related to higher education in the respective state.

Texas, the second-most populous state in the country with more than 23 million people, is known for many things — it’s a leading producer of oil, beef and cotton, and it’s also home to 143 public and private institutions of higher education. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 23 percent of Texans over the age of 25 has a bachelor’s degree, almost mirroring the national rate of 24.4 percent. But the state is trying to improve these numbers as part of its “Closing the Gaps by 2015” initiative, the goal of which is to increase the number of students enrolled in Texas colleges and universities by 630,000 by 2015. According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, current trends put the expected increase at 300,000, so there’s much work to do to more than double that number.

The Hispanic population in Texas, which is about 35 percent of the state, accounted for 58 percent of the state’s higher education enrollment growth from fall 2004 to fall 2005, according to the state higher ed board. Put together, Blacks and Hispanics make up 36 percent of the students in Texas higher education, even though they represent 55 percent of the state’s 15- to 34-year-old population.

The themes of access and race are ever present in the articles you’ll read in this edition. It’s a reality that in Texas and throughout the rest of the country, demographics are changing. How, in this case, colleges and universities accommodate these populations is unique to individual schools.

Texas, for instance, came up with a strategy in the late 1990s to automatically admit the top 10 percent of the state’s graduating high school seniors to the in-state public university of their choice. This was done in efforts to maintain diverse student bodies at the state’s elite institutions when the use of race was taken off the admissions table following the Hopwood court decision. University of Texas officials would now like to see the program scaled back. Might the university be a victim of its own success, as one scholar put it? Read more in Ronald Roach’s “Tricky Times for the Top 10 Percent Program.”

In “The Evolution of an HBCU,” senior writer David Pluviose chronicles how St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, originally designated as a historically Black college, is now a federally designated Hispanic-serving institution as well. When a new president was to be appointed, Blacks and Hispanics were in favor of leadership that represented their own demographics. Don’t miss David’s story to see how that situation was resolved.

We also take a look at the state’s other HBCUs. Texas is home to 10 such colleges and universities, and long-time contributor B. Denise Hawkins provides brief snapshots of what’s happening at these schools in “A Rich History.”

– Hilary Hurd Anyaso

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