Thursday, August 02, 2007

Education for progress is a fair trade for Texas

Would be good to know if there is a compositional effect in South Texas. That is this an artifact of first generation, i.e., immigrant status? Or if we took this community out of the mix, would the numbers still look the same?
Unfortunately, so little data exists of this nature that would allow us to tease these factors out. This circumstance then could lead folks to conclude that this is an immigrant phenomenon.



Education for progress is a fair trade for Texas


Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has undertaken an ambitious 15-year plan in 20000 to dramatically increase enrollment and graduation rates in Texas colleges and universities while upgrading these institutions' excellence and increasing their research activities.

Each public university chose a field in which to develop excellence and conduct research, and all set specific enrollment and graduation targets.

The 2007 progress report reveals that, almost at the halfway mark, some headway has been made. But we are lagging far behind in a critical area: to bring enrollment and graduation rates for Latinos — Texas' fastest-growing group — up to par.

The plan's purpose is really economic. As trade barriers fall, and our economy is transformed from one based on manufacturing to one based on information and trade, higher education is becoming more critical in our work force.

But if Texas needs many more college-educated people to be a player in the global marketplace, it is particularly critical that we make dramatic progress in the state's 43-county border region, where global trade — and Latinos — are most concentrated.

If the border is booming, its residents aren't prospering, and this is most glaring in the 14 counties contiguous to Mexico.

In 2003, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas reported that per-capita income in the counties next to Mexico ranged from 66 percent of the national average in El Paso to 34.3 percent in Starr County in 2003.

And last year, the Commerce Department reported that the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission Metropolitan Statistical Area is the nation's fourth-fastest growing. But it is also the MSA that is most impoverished.

One big reason is that educational attainment often determines personal earnings. Over a lifetime, state demographer Steve Murdoch reported in 2002, a person who doesn't finish high school can expect to earn $1,080,714 while one who does stands to earn $1,716,431.

A bachelor's degree will boost lifetime earnings to $2,918,002; a graduate or professional degree will raise that to $3,937,916.

But in the 43-county borderlands region — the counties south of a line from Corpus Christi to San Antonio to El Paso — 33.6 percent of adults have no high school diploma. In Texas' 211 other counties, that rate is only 22.2 percent.

And in Texas' 14 southernmost counties, the percentage of adults without high school diplomas is 43.2 percent.

In Texas' 211 nonborder-area counties, 16.9 percent have baccalaureate degrees. In the 43-county border zone, only 11.2 percent of residents have BAs, and in the 14 border counties, the percentage drops to 9.3 percent.

In Texas' nonborder-zone counties, 7.9 percent of adults have graduate or professional degrees. But in the 43 border area counties, only 6.3 percent have advanced degrees, and in the 14 border counties, the percentage is only 5 percent.

Initially, substantial progress was made in enrolling and graduating more students from this heavily Latino region. But progress has been less encouraging since 2003 when tuition "deregulation" provided lawmakers the excuse to let state appropriations lag behind universities' growing costs.

Universities' budget shortfalls have since been made up through higher tuition and other enrollment fees that, statewide, have jumped 49 percent since 2003.

These student-borne costs, however, have been particularly devastating to the border-area's nine public universities, where tuition and fees have risen 54 percent, and where, as detailed above, family income levels are among the state's lowest.

Do border universities need special help? Yes, or else the area will never overcome its chicken-and-egg dilemma.

And if these schools don't get much more state funding now, we will pay a price dear in a very short time as Texas' economy — and state tax revenues — slide to Third World levels.

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