Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, Feb. 25, 2005
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez , Press Secretary
Phone: (512) 463-0127

Senator Lucio files "TexasNextStep" Bill

AUSTIN, TX--Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. today filed Senate Bill 722, the TexasNextStep Program, giving Texas high school graduates an opportunity to complete up to 90 semester credit hours of their education at a state public community, technical or lower-division college.

SB 722, filed as Senate Bill 1200 in January during the 78th Legislature's Regular Session, passed in the Senate but was stalled in the Higher Education Committee in the House.

"I brought this bill up again because it means greater opportunities in higher education for thousands of young people statewide who would otherwise not have the ability to attend college," said Sen. Lucio. "It is important that we try again this session to give Texas students an opportunity to attend college. Even some college is likely to boost a person's annual income by about $5,000 more than those with only a high school degree."

TexasNextStep was first proposed by Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who said, "I want Texas to have the most educated workforce in the nation," Comptroller Strayhorn said. "I am a fiscal conservative, and I'm a common sense conservative. I'd rather spend $2,500 a year educating young Texans, than $16,000 incarcerating them. I am honored and humbled that Senator Lucio is again carrying my TexasNextStep proposal."

The TexasNextStep is geared toward those who may not necessarily want to attend a four year university, but instead want to enroll in a technical or vocational program.

TexasNextStep would pay the tuition and required fees, plus textbooks, for every student who registers within 16 months of high school graduation. To be eligible, a student would have to be a Texas resident, have graduated from a public high school or accredited private high school, and enroll for at least one-half of a full course load.

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, continue taking one-half of a full course load per semester (with the exception of the final semester before graduation), and make satisfactory academic progress.

"TexasNextStep will be a great economic catalyst because it encourages more individuals to attend community college, creates a better-educated workforce, and raises the wages of Texans," stated Sen. Lucio. "It also affords students the opportunity to live at home to keep costs even lower. TexasNextStep 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, and this is why I continue to push for this noteworthy legislation," he added. "Any amount of time spent in a college classroom makes people more marketable, thus giving them the potential to raise the quality of life for themselves and their family."

Senator Royce West, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education, is primary co-author of SB 722, along with 20 other Senators who have also signed on to the bill.

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

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