Monday, September 11, 2006

Report: Texas failing in higher ed affordability

This piece cites a report titled, Measuring Up in Higher Education, by the nonpartisan, nonprofit National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Texas gets an F in educating its young population. -Angela

Report: Texas failing in higher ed affordability
Thursday, September 7, 2006

Associated Press
HOUSTON - Sending a student to a public university costs low- to middle-income families in Texas almost half of their annual earnings, according to a report released Thursday.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education gave the Lone Star State an "F" for higher education affordability. The state also received low grades for its college enrollment numbers and degree completion rates.

"Texas' underperformance in educating its young population could limit the state's access to a competitive work force and weaken its economy over time," the report card concluded.

For state legislators and education leaders, the report echoes what they already know.

"It's a very real threat to the state," said Ray Grasshoff, spokesman for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which advises the Legislature. Without an educated work force, the state will see personal incomes and quality of life drop, and demand on social services jump, he said.

Other findings of the report include:

-- 14 percent of students complete a certificate or degree; Texas' higher education graduation rate is lower than those of the Czech Republic and Hungary

-- a third of high school students are likely to enroll in college by age 19, an improvement for Texas but still low when compared to other states

-- adult whites are more than twice as likely to have a bachelor's degree than nonwhites; this is one of the widest gaps in the country

-- 36 percent of young adult whites are enrolled in higher education, versus 26 percent of nonwhites

"The good news," Grasshoff said, "is that it's not a secret and we're out there doing some things."

The state, for example, created the Texas Grant program for needy students who take college preparation courses in high school. However, Texas doesn't have enough money to award every student who qualifies, so this year, it started accepting private donations to the fund, Grasshoff said.

Texas has made progress in enrolling more students in colleges and universities, but it hasn't made much progress in the numbers of Hispanics, the largest minority group in the state, Grasshoff added. "That's a very big concern across the state."

Democratic Sen. Royce West, who serves on the state Legislature's higher education subcommittee, said he was very disappointed in Texas' performance.

"What it comes down to is whether we're going to prioritize higher education, not just in words but also in our deeds," said West, of Dallas.

The state hasn't kept its promises to make college more affordable. hasn't aligned its high school and college curriculums and hasn't figured out why students are dropping out, he added.

As the population changes, higher education has to change with it, West said. If minorities aren't represented in universities' leadership it will be difficult to understand the perspectives and meet the challenges of minority groups, he said.

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