Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez
Phone: (512) 463-0127

Texas Senate approves TexasNextStep Bill

AUSTIN, TX - Yesterday the Senate voted out legislation by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. that would implement the TexasNextStep ProgramSenate Bill 1200giving Texas high school graduates an opportunity to complete up to two years of their education at a state public community, technical or lower-division college.

SB 1200 will open the door to higher education for thousands of young people statewide who otherwise would not have the ability to attend college, said Sen. Lucio. I commend Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn for developing this plan and for working with me on this issue.

TexasNextStep was first proposed by Comptroller Strayhorn last year. Then, after the E-Texas report was released in January 2003, she identified a possible $1.7 billion in savings from E-Texas. Once fully implemented in 2006, the program will cost about $85 million a year.

"I would like to thank Senator Lucio for introducing this bill. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has said by the year 2030, 60 percent of Texans will have only a high school diploma or less. I say, 'Hogwash.' I want Texas to have the most educated workforce in the country. I would rather our state government spend $1,700 a year educating young Texans than $15,000 a year incarcerating them," said Comptroller Strayhorn.

TexasNextStep would pay the tuition and required fees, plus textbooks, to every student who registers within 16 months of high school graduation. To be eligible, a student would have to be a Texas resident, enroll for at least one-half of a full course load, and have graduated from a public high school or accredited private high school. To receive TexasNextStep, students must be eligible to receive federal student financial aid, except for demonstrating financial need. (For example, male students must register for Selective Service.)

Enrollees must comply with any non-academic requirements adopted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which will also be required to prepare a biennial report on the participants academic progress.

To remain in the program, students must remain enrolled in an associate degree or certificate program and take at least one-half of a full course load per semester (unless in final semester and ready to graduate). This program extends to a maximum of 90 hours, including remedial classes. Participants must also make satisfactory academic progress and continue to meet federal student financial aid eligibility requirements, except for meeting financial need requirements.

Failure to meet any requirements of the TexasNextStep would disqualify a student. After completing the program, students can either enter the workforce or continue their education in a senior-level institution. Students must demonstrate financial need in order to receive financial assistance for tuition and fees through the TEXAS grant program.

TexasNextStep is a great program for many reasons: a better-educated work force; an increase in the number of college graduates; and holding down the increasing cost of college attendance, stated Sen. Lucio. It also affords students the opportunity to stay home for at least the first two years of college, helping keep costs even lower for them, and also offers working students the availability of flexible schedules at community and technical colleges.

The TexasNextStep is the best first step we can offer our Texas students, added Sen. Lucio.

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Note: Ms. Perla Cavazos, senior policy analyst, is handling this legislation.

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