Texas higher education agency to focus more on college degrees


Texas is the first state to set higher education goals directly tied to earnings from postsecondary degrees in new guidelines established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The council, which oversees all of the state’s higher education, unanimously approved changes to his plan says 60×30 that would put more emphasis on adult learners, prioritize “valuable credentials” and give college students equitable access to information and resources.

The primary goal of the original 60×30 plan was for at least 60 percent of Texans aged 25 to 34 to graduate with a certificate or diploma by 2030. The plan, adopted in 2015, also aimed for college graduates complete programs with marketable skills and keep undergraduate student loan debt from exceeding 60 percent of first-year salary by 2030.

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The board updated the primary goal of tracking “certificates of worth” earned by young Texans in addition to the certificate or diplomas at its quarterly meeting on Thursday. It will also monitor the percentage of Texans aged 35 to 64 who will achieve any valuable certificates, diplomas or diplomas by 2030 and collect more data on the finances associated with those diplomas, such as median earnings and cost. net attendance.

Melissa Henderson, the council’s associate commissioner for strategic partnerships, said valuable credentials can include degrees and certificates as well as badges, apprenticeships and industry certifications. In addition to typical diplomas and certificates, she said these titles help students get started in the workforce.

“We have already laid a solid foundation for the Texas workforce over the past two decades by increasing the level of post-secondary education,” said Henderson. “However, the modern economy demands more of us describing credentials that provide purpose in the economy, value in the job market, and the possibility of a good job and rewarding career.”

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The change comes as Harrison Keller, Texas’ commissioner for higher education, acknowledges that the board was not on track to meet its primary goal of 60×30 over the next nine years. About 44.5% of Texans aged 25 to 34 graduated with a certificate or diploma in 2019, and the state is currently expected to increase that number to around 54.5% by 2030, according to data presented in the meeting.

“We’re going to have to double our engagement and enrollment as students,” Keller said. “In particular, we will need to work with our institutions to have short-term credentials that are more flexible, valuable to individuals and aligned with the current needs of the emerging workforce.

As part of an effort to make information more accessible, the council plans to publish data on career paths and earnings associated with different types of degrees in the future. The board is also working with the Texas Workforce Commission to create a state credentials database with a list of available credentials, Keller said.

“A lot of people have told us that if cost is a barrier (in finding credentials), issues of the same magnitude are with the board,” Keller said. “People might know that they might need additional training, additional education to advance in their careers, but they weren’t quite sure what kind of education they should pursue or how it might lead to. a better job. “

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The board has approved plans to track the percentage of graduates with “no or little student debt” relative to their potential earnings based on the degrees they earn. Nearly 40 of Texas students were in student loan debt in the 2019-2020 academic year, according to a report on student financial aid in Texas higher education.

Keller said two college students might have the same amount of debt, but they might have different projected incomes depending on the degree they graduate with. He said if the state does not maintain or improve its commitment to need-based financial aid, more students may have high and unsustainable debt levels when they graduate.

“Included in this notion of (measuring) high debt or no debt, there is also an emphasis on shared responsibility among students and their families, institutions and also the State of Texas, and ensuring that these higher education degrees are accessible. and affordable, ”Keller said.

Henderson said the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how quickly specific jobs and marketable skills can change, and therefore college degrees must propel graduates into careers that prepare them for their future while providing greater mobility. economy and low student debt.

“Manageable student debt is essential for expanding the economic mobility of historically underserved populations who have often had the greatest means and least access to higher education and support services,” said Henderson. “This combination of increased value and economic mobility for students also translates into greater economic prosperity. “

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