July 17, 2020
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has for five years touted goals to equip 60 percent of Texas residents between the ages of 25 to 34 with a postsecondary education by 2030, but a Rice University report predicts it’s unlikely the state will meet the benchmark.
Only 40 percent of Houston residents in that age group and 50 percent throughout Texas will have a post-secondary education by 2030 if new policies or practices aren’t implemented to help meet goals., according to a study by Rice’s Houston Education Research Consortium, part of its Kinder Institute for Urban Research.
The projections, based on past data, are not exempt from error and were made before the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downtown — factors that will likely affect college attendance, graduation rates, and thus the coordinating board’s “60x30TX” goals, researcher Brian Holzman said.
“Students and their families are re-evaluating their college plans due to financial hardship and the job market,” Holzman said in a statement. “Interventions and supports at school districts and colleges will become more crucial, particularly for students from marginalized backgrounds.”
Higher Education Commissioner Harrison Keller, who leads the coordinating board, said “educational attainment doesn’t always occur a straight line,” but acknowledged that this year is an important benchmark year for the 60x30TX plan.
Keller wrote in a statement that he was encouraged Texas was close to an annual 1.3 percent growth level in educational attainment from 2015 to 2017, but noted more recent data has shown slower progression. Add to that the upheaval and uncertainty Texas is experiencing due to COVID-19, “it is difficult to know what the future will bring,” he said.
“While it is important to increase educational attainment in Texas, it isn’t enough to say 60 percent of current young adults ought to achieve any sort of postsecondary certificate or degree. Some credentials will be especially important for the future of our state. Some will be more valuable for Texas students and their families,” Keller added.
“Looking ahead, our state’s higher education institutions will play critical roles in providing individual Texans with opportunities to upskill, reskill and achieve the kinds of high-value credentials that will help drive the recovery of the Texas economy,” Keller sid.
Keller said the board is working with several efforts in the Gulf Coast region to expand efforts through post-secondary education, including Houston Guided Pathways to Success, a program that helps create pathways from Gulf Coast and Houston area community colleges to Houston area universities, and the Greater Houston Partnership/Upskill Houston, an employer-led initiative that helps create a pipeline between skilled workers and employers.
Additionally, Rice researchers predicted that there will be an increasing gap between the supply and demand of college-educated workers.
The report, which analyzed information from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Texas Workforce Commission and Houston Independent School District, says the demand for workers with bachelor’s degree increased by 54 percent between 2013 and 2016 and will continue to grow, as will the shortage of students with degrees. Similarly, the demand for employees with associate’s degrees will increase slightly, but supply will also decrease.
The report reaffirmed the value of higher education, noting that college graduates often earn more than those with a high school diploma. Employees with a bachelor’s degree earned 120 percent more than those with a high school diploma in 2016, and those with a two-year degree earned 70 percent more than high school graduates. That advantage is expected to double for four-year degree holders and will remain constant for those with associate degrees through 2030.
Still, pay equity issues remain, Rice researchers noted.
A seven-year analysis of former HISD students who graduated in spring 2007 through 2009 showed that wages and unemployment insurance benefits people receive early in their careers differ based on gender, race, ethnicity and socioeconomic background. Women with a postsecondary education continued to earn less than men, and Black and Asian people earned less than white people.
Researchers suggested that policymakers and higher education officials develop strategies and new efforts to help students obtain postsecondary credentials, including expanding college and career readiness support and considering the high demand of interpersonal skills in Houston, an area that typically requires one to two years of higher education.
“Otherwise, economic growth may slow or employers may need to attract more educated workers from other parts of the country,” the report read. “Equipping students with interpersonal skills, in addition to academic knowledge, may help students be prepared for the needs of Houston’s growing economy.”
Article originally published in the Houston Chronicle, July 17, 2020