Texas Lawmakers Seek Explanation of Average Higher Education Rankings
The state must better prepare more students for college if it wants to solve problems highlighted in a national higher education report card, a group of Texas lawmakers were told last month.
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and the House Committee on Higher Education held a joint hearing to discuss the Measuring Up 2000 report released Nov. 30.
On a scale of A through F, the state-by-state report card gave Texas C grades for preparing schoolchildren for higher education, affordability of higher education and the social benefits to the state as a result of its residents’ levels of education (see Black
Issues, Dec. 21).
The state earned a D for the low number of Texans who actually go to college, the number of degrees completed and the preparation level of high school graduates.
“We just want to get the information straight so we know what to do during the session,” says Rep. Irma Rangel, chairwoman of the higher education committee. The 140-day legislative session begins Jan. 9.
“I am sorry to report that Texas received no As or Bs,” says Dr. Uri Treisman, executive director of the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas. He also is a member of the board at the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, the nonpartisan think tank that released the study.
According to the report, which used federal data from 1998, 81 percent of 18- to 24-year-old Texans earn a high school diploma or equivalent credential. That’s compared to a national average of 93 percent.
Only 30 percent of all 18- to 24-year-old Texans enroll in a college-level program, compared to 42 percent nationally. Of those Texas students who do attend college, 43 percent complete their degrees within five years, compared to a 66 percent national average.
The study also found that in every state poor people and minorities fared the worst in getting a higher education. That was especially true in Texas, where 39 percent of White 18-to 24-year-olds enrolled in college, compared to 22 percent of all other races.
Getting more poor and minority students into college is one of the issues addressed in the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s 15-year plan that will be submitted to the Legislature in January, says Higher Education Commissioner Don Brown.
The plan proposes increasing college enrollment by 500,000 students — most of them minorities — by 2015.
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