The first meeting of the Joint Interim Committee on Higher Education was called to order today, October 23, 2003, by Senate Chair Florence Shapiro and House Chair Geanie Morrison.
The committee has a wide range of subjects to study before the next legislative session. Some of the subjects to be considered include all aspects of financial aid, tuition deregulation, how institutions of higher education interact with the public schools, admissions criteria, community colleges and funding formulas for higher education.
Patrick M. Callan, President of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education was the first witness. He spoke about Texas' scores on the National Report Card on Higher Education. He said Texas institutions face the challenge of producing graduates capable of competing for jobs in a knowledge-based global economy, and that a high-school education is no longer enough for a comfortable middle-class existence. He said a report coming out in the next two weeks will show that in Texas for every 100 high school students, 62 graduate, 32 enter college and only eleven finish either an associate's or bachelor's degree. His conclusion was that most Americans need training beyond high school.
Mr. Callan was followed by Don Brown, Commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. He said that Callan's report was helpful to the state in determining future needs and that it verified that there are big gaps in Texas education and the state needs to do better. He said that if the Texas education system fails in its goals of workforce training the cost to the Texas economy would be up to 50 billion dollars a year in lost income. Also testifying today was Ted Cruz, Solicitor General, Office of the Attorney General, who testified regarding what schools can and can't do in regard to using race as a criteria for college admissions.
The Joint Interim Committee on Higher Education is co-chaired by Senator Florence Shapiro and Representative Geanie Morrison. Senate members include Kip Averitt, Robert Duncan, Kyle Janek, Royce West and Judith Zaffirini. House members include Fred Brown, Tony Goolsby, Roberto Gutierrez, Lois Kolkhorst and Sylvester Turner. Members of the public on the committee include Martin Basaldua, Jerry Farrington, Jodie Jiles and Robert Shepard. The committee recessed subject to call of the chair, the next meeting is tentatively scheduled for November in Austin.