Higher Education Opportunities are Important to All
by Senator Troy Fraser
Texans have always valued the importance of a quality education. Through the years, the significance of receiving an education has increased exponentially, and today it is recognized as invaluable to sustaining the growth and development of the Lone Star State.
In particular, higher education plays a major role in the state's overall success as it enhances our quality of life, prepares us for the workforce, and advances basic general knowledge. Higher education also has a highly significant impact on the state's economy, fueling the economic engine with tens of billions of dollars in business activity.
There are over 4,000 public and private higher education institutions in the United States, with enrollment topping 16 million students. Texas is home to 208 public and private institutions of higher education with seven percent of the total U.S. college enrollment. Over half of the nation's population has taken college courses and over 25 percent hold at least a baccalaureate degree. Here in Texas, over half have taken college courses and 22 percent of our residents have earned at least one degree.
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's strategic plan calls for increasing the participation rate of Texans in our higher education system from the current rate of five percent of the state's population to 5.7 percent by the year 2015. That increase would mean an additional 600,000 more students in the higher education system. The Higher Education Coordinating Board in coordination with the state's community, technical, and state colleges, as well as the universities and medical schools are working to attain this goal through a variety of ongoing and dynamic programs.
A college education remains the primary path to many careers. From an individual's perspective, postsecondary education opens the doors to many of the most lucrative and rewarding careers. In order to increase participation in higher education and give every individual the opportunity to afford to get a higher education, the Legislature has created several programs to help fund the costs of education.
To assist low and middle income Texas students who choose to attend an independent college or university instead of a public institution, the Legislature established the Tuition Equalization Grant (TEG) in 1971. This program is designed to help bridge the gap between the tuition that public schools charge, which is state-subsidized, and the higher costs of an education at independent institutions.
The Legislature also established the TEXAS (Toward EXcellence, Access and Success) Grant to make sure that deserving high school graduates with financial need could go to college. The last two sessions have seen increases to both the TEG (over $35 million) and the TEXAS Grant Programs (over $23 million). Information on preparing for, applying, and paying for college can be found at
www.CollegeforTexans.com, a project of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
In order for Texas to continue to enjoy a flourishing economy, it is essential to prepare our future workforce to meet the needs of the evolving business and industrial realm. Emerging technologies and new manufacturing methods will demand highly trained personnel. Medical advances will mandate specialized knowledge. I will continue to support the state's college and universities so that we are ready for any future challenges.
Senator Fraser represents a 21-county region in the geographic center of the state. He is the Chairman of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee. He also sits on the following standing Senate Committees: Natural Resources, State Affairs, and International Relations and Trade.