Texas has entered a new era in higher education. From 2000 to 2015, many of the initiatives undertaken by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and colleges and universities were intended to achieve one or more of the four goals of Closing the Gaps: increasing the amount of federal research dollars awarded to Texas; improving institutional excellence; and dramatically increasing Texas higher education access and success. By most standards, Closing the Gaps has been an extraordinary achievement. Texas exceeded $3 billion in research expenditures and the academic quality of our colleges and universities has clearly improved over the past 15 years; Texas is now home to seven public "Carnegie Tier One" universities and has placed two institutions among ten finalists for the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Pending final enrollment data for fall 2015, Texas will either reach its goal of 630,000 more enrollees in higher education compared to 2000 or come very close. Regarding student completions, here is the best news of all: Closing the Gaps had a goal of 210,000 completers of certificates and undergraduate degrees in 2015; as of August 2015 the actual number was 258,704.
Now comes 60x30TX, our new higher education strategic plan intended to carry our state to 2030. For all its successes, Closing the Gaps had the practical effect of placing Texas in the middle among all states in educational attainment; 60x30TX aims to position Texas among the highest achieving states in the country and maintain its global competitiveness. 60x30TX is entirely student-centered: its overarching goal is that 60 percent of young adults (25-34) in Texas will hold some type of postsecondary credential by 2030. We also propose that these graduates will have marketable skills regardless of major and that, statewide, students will not graduate with debt exceeding 60 percent of their first-year wages.
These are ambitious goals-educational moonshots, as it were-but the great lesson of Closing the Gaps is that Texas can achieve lofty educational goals when institutions set out to reach them with a commitment to innovation. One thing is certain: we will not achieve the goals of 60x30TX simply doing business as usual. Success will require unprecedented collaboration among K-12, higher education, and the workforce. We must commit to holding down the costs of higher education, to move students more quickly to the finish line with high-quality, marketable credentials. The consequences will be worth the effort and commitment. Texas will be more economically competitive and our quality of life will continue to improve. We will have laid an educational foundation that might well carry our children and grandchildren to the end of the twenty-first century.
The members and staff of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board look forward to working with Gov. Greg Abbott, legislators, education and business leaders, and Texans from all backgrounds in every corner of the state to achieve the goals of 60x30TX.
Raymund A. Paredes, Ph.D.
Commissioner of Higher Education
|2016 Higher Education Almanac|