The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has hit a home run with the 60x30TX plan. No other education plan will impact businesses in a more positive way than this one will.
If you haven’t heard of the goal, it is to have 60 percent of Texans between the age of 25 and 34 hold some kind of degree or post-secondary certification by the year 2030.
That number right now is 38 percent, so we have a long way to go and only 15 years to get there.
In Texas, we are seeing a brain drain as the older generation retires.
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Currently, the highest levels of education in any age group are Texans from age 55 to 64. That age group would rank fifth in the world if Texas were its own country.
Most of those people will be out of the workforce in the next 15 years.
The current 25-to-34 age group would rank 25th in the world for educational attainment. That is why the 60x30TX initiative is so important.
It is something that is needed to ensure that we have the educated workforce that business needs and that will drive our economic success into the middle of this century.
One reason this gap exists is detailed in a 2014 Houston Endowment study.
The study showed only 19 percent of eighth graders in 2001 went on to complete a degree or obtain certification within six years of graduating high school.
It also shows a wide disparity in degree attainment between children born into poverty and children born into medium- and high-income families.
While it is crucial that we continue to get more high school students into post-secondary education, it also is crucial that we encourage people who are already in the workforce to continue their education and earn a degree if they haven’t already.
There are higher education options that are affordable and centered on working Texans to help them earn degrees.
It is crucial that we work to improve our public school K-12 education to make more high school graduates ready to take that next educational step.
Right now, only about 25 percent of students graduate high school academically prepared for college. I believe the new A-F public school accountability system will help us better identify where more help is needed to get our public schools back on track.
Funding and affordability are major concerns. As a state, we must maintain funding to these institutions, and we must maintain financial aid options for students.
Students shouldn’t owe a debt the size of a 30-year mortgage when they graduate. That is no way to start a career.
We must hold our universities accountable for getting students out of the classroom with degrees.
That is why our Legislature should tie a portion of university funding to completion rates. Money is motivation.
Clearly, our universities have done a tremendous job getting more students interested in attending college. The numbers clearly back that up, but the numbers also show that, with a few exceptions, only around 50 percent of students are completing their education within six years.
Certainly, there are mitigating circumstances depending on the student, but we must find ways to improve completion rates.
Yes, this is a big goal that will be hard to achieve, but it is something that we must do to maintain a growing economy and ensure that the Texas we leave for our children and grandchildren will be stronger than the one we have today.
Bill Hammond is the CEO of the Texas Association of Business.