In 2000, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board launched the Closing the Gaps by 2015 initiative intended to bring Texas to parity in higher education achievement with other large states by the year 2015. The initiative set goals in four areas: participation (or enrollment); student success as measured by the completion of certificates, associate degrees, and baccalaureates; institutional excellence; and growth in federal research dollars coming to Texas institutions.
Two years before the endpoint for Closing the Gaps, Texas is on track to reach its four major goals. As of 2012, enrollment in Texas higher education had grown by 540,506 since 2000, and undergraduate credential completion had increased to 196,561 credentials awarded compared to 116,235 in 2000. In terms of institutional excellence, Texas universities have moved up steadily in rankings of academic programs and institutional quality. Our two-year institutions regularly receive recognition for innovative student success initiatives and workforce development programs. In research, Texas institutions have already surpassed the Closing the Gaps goal for federal research dollars with $3.7 billion in federal support as of 2012.
Beneath the success on these overarching goals, results are mixed. Texas is well behind in meeting its 2000 goals in producing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) graduates and high school mathematics and science teachers. Texas has had extraordinary success in increasing African American enrollment and success in higher education: from 2000 to 2012, we have seen a 96 percent growth in enrollment and a 92 percent increase in completions. For Hispanic students, the gains are even more impressive during the same period: 110 percent growth in enrollment and 149 percent increase in completions. But disaggregated by gender, these data show disturbingly low participation and completion rates for both African American and, especially, Hispanic males.
Probably the most straightforward conclusion to draw from the data collected on the following pages is that Texas higher education is improving, but not nearly fast enough. Perhaps the clearest evidence of this comes from national studies that project that by 2020, nearly 60 percent of high-demand, well-paying jobs in Texas will require postsecondary credentials. As of 2011, less than 35 percent of Texas adults had reached that level of educational attainment. And, even with the improvements noted above, according to national data, Texas stands 33rd among states in six-year college graduation rates at four-year institutions.
A second conclusion to be drawn from the data presented here is that the key to accelerating improvement in educational attainment in Texas is closer and sustained collaboration between the higher education and P-12 sectors. Texas is 47th among states in SAT scores in reading and writing and 43rd in mathematics. On the ACT exam, Texas ranks 32nd, with only 24 percent of high school graduates scoring at the college-readiness level across the board. Not surprisingly, nearly 45 percent of students entering Texas higher education require developmental or remedial education. Clearly, Texas cannot reach its higher educational goals without dramatic improvement in college readiness among high school seniors. And that will not happen unless our colleges and universities assign a greater priority to attracting high-achieving students into the teaching profession, strengthen teacher-training programs, and collaborate with local school districts to provide high-quality professional development for teachers and administrators, particularly those at the high school level.
This year, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board will turn much of its attention to developing the next strategic plan for higher education in Texas. It is important to remember, as noted above, that the goal of Closing the Gaps has been relatively modest: to reach parity in higher education attainment with other large states. Into the future, our goal must surely be to strive not for parity but national and international leadership. The data in this volume tell much of the story of higher education in Texas today and should prove indispensable in charting a course to 2020 and beyond.
Raymund A. Paredes, Ph.D.
Commissioner of Higher Education
|2013 Higher Education Almanac|
|2013 Media Coverage|