60 by 30 Tex: The State’s New Plan for Higher Education is Big and Bold

Today, in the state of Texas, the highest levels of education in any age group are for those ages 55 to 64. If Texas were its own country, this age group would rank fifth in the world in terms of educational attainment, conversely, those ages 25 to 34 would rank 25th in the world.  The concern is that the older group is on the cusp of retiring. The state is already beginning to see a brain drain and over the next 15 years the problem will only worsen, unless we take action now.

Simply stated the basic vision for the plan is to bolster the skills of the state’s workforce, making Texas an attractive state for enterprise. Earlier this year, Texas’ Higher Education Coordinating Board introduced 60 by 30 Tex (or 60x30TX), a lofty plan developed precisely to address the dwindling workforce ready population and to assure that state based businesses have the resources and skills needed to fuel growth into the middle of this century. The specific goal is to have 60% of Texans between the ages 25 and 34 hold some type of degree or post-secondary certification by the year 2030. By comparison, today this demographic group (people ages 25-to-34) have only a 38% attainment rate.

To crystallize the goals the plan calls for at least 550,000 students in calendar year 2030 to complete a certificate, two-year, four-year or master’s degree from an institution in Texas. Additionally the goal stipulates that all graduates from Texas public institutions will have completed programs with identified marketable skills; and undergraduate student loan debt won’t exceed 60 percent of Texas public institution graduates’ first-year wages.

The new plan urges more success with Hispanic and African-American students who to date have had far lower educational attainment rates versus others.  Since Texas has the highest percentage of black and Hispanic students in the country, finding ways to help these students get into college, stay in college — and pay for it — will be vital to the state’s future.

Critics of the plan might argue that rather than laying out a specific list of actions, it is more a statement of goals. From my perspective, sure it could be a little more prescriptive but I am choosing to focus on the positive. Consistent with EIF’s vision and mission, I am encouraged that among the plans details are specific efforts to make college more affordable and to make it easier for students to access and complete college courses. A few highlights from the plan that caught my attention are as follows:

  • Aggressively promoting college attainment to students and parents prior to high school.
  • Expanding online courses and those that students can take while still in high school.
  • Exploring the possibility of reducing the hours needed to earn a degree — say by reducing required electives — so that students can graduate faster.
  • To help with affordability overall, the Texas Legislature is working to align community college courses so that more would easily transfer to a four-year institution, saving students money.
  • Before the next Legislative session in 2017, officials are also considering allowing a few community colleges to offer bachelor degrees. But care is being taken to develop a process that does not create unnecessary competition with universities.

There is a lot to digest in the new 60x30TX plan and by the authors’ own admission by design, the plan is “Texas-bold and Texas-achievable. Some may say this goal is too great to accomplish, but it must be accomplished – a Texas future without bold action is a Texas without a bold future.”

We will continue to watch for new developments in the state’s plans for higher education. My suggestion is that you too stay tuned; the next 15 years are bound to be choked full of excitement and innovation for higher education in Texas.

Want more details? Click here to read a draft of the full plan.

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