News Release from the office of State Senator Judith Zaffirini

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Nick Almanza
(512) 463-0121
February 13, 2007

SENATE HIGHER EDUCATION SUBCOMMITTEE HOLDS FIRST HEARING

AUSTIN -- The Senate Higher Education Subcommittee held its first hearing of the 80th Legislative Session (2007) Monday (Feb. 12) and heard testimony from Dr. Raymund Paredes, commissioner of higher education, who reviewed the status of higher education in Texas and priority issues. Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, chair, described the subcommittee's higher education priorities and praised Lt. Governor David Dewhurst's leadership in appointing the committee and defining its important charges.

"The subcommittee's priorities include tuition deregulation, the top ten percent law, financial aid, affordability, graduation rates, accessibility and incentives to improve the efficiency and transparency of our higher education institutions," Senator Zaffirini said.

Commissioner Paredes summarized strategies associated with the "Closing the Gaps by 2015" plan that seeks to close gaps in higher education participation rates; the state's need to graduate more students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); and the importance of early education in creating a "college going culture." He also underscored the disproportionate representation of low-income students at community colleges and the need to improve transfer rates from two- to four-year institutions.

"Our priorities include improving access to and the affordability of higher education, especially for low- and middle-income families," said Senator Zaffirini. "We must examine the state financial aid programs to see how we can make them more efficient and effective in achieving the goals of Closing the Gaps."

Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst recently re-appointed Zaffirini to chair the subcommittee. Members are Senators Kip Averitt, R-Waco; Dan Patrick, R-Houston; Royce West, D-Dallas; and Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands.

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