AUSTIN - One of the challenges faced by higher education in Texas is how to identify which students could benefit the most from a college education. Secondly, educators want to encourage those students to attend. The Texas Legislature has made this a priority for institutions of higher learning in the state. Today, a joint committee heard how successful the effort has been.
The Joint Interim Committee on Higher Education examined the "Education-Go Get It" Campaign. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Commissioner Don Brown described it as an effort to help students prepare both financially as well as academically for college. He told the committee that outreach efforts such as public service announcements have caused the board to be "deluged" with requests for more information.
Linda Holstrom of the Georgetown Independent School District, said that self-motivation was the most important factor in getting students to encourage each other to go to college. Students from the district then told the committee of excellent support from the school board and how they had promoted the idea in the local community. Mike Collins, also of the Higher Education Coordinating Board, said that the program was especially valuable in inner city schools. Students in inner city schools responded especially well to the concept of other students helping them prepare for college.
Bliss Blumenthal, a student and co-author of Wiley's Way, a book that encourages students to go to college, testified that the very act of writing the book changed her outlook on learning in general and college in particular. Other students demonstrated a skit they have taken to various schools, trying to locate students who are can benefit from college, but may not know what they need to do for admission.
Representatives from the Legislative Budget Board then described funding methods for general academics institutions, health-related institutions, and community colleges. Committee member Representative Fred Brown asked why higher education wasn't as accountable to the Legislature as were other state agencies. He said there was no accountability procedure other than the total number of students being educated. Committee co-chair Florence Shaprio agreed with him, saying that the issue would be examined before the next session of the Legislature in 2005. Other questions addressed today included how to determine how much money is going to administration as opposed to the classroom. Other discussion centered around the methods by which higher education reports student performance, such as graduation rates and retention rates.
The Joint Interim Committee on Higher Education is co-chaired by Senator Florence Shapiro and Representative Geanie Morrison. Members include Senators Kip Averitt, Robert Duncan, Kyle Janek, Royce West and Judith Zaffirini, along with Representatives Fred Brown, Tony Goolsby, Roberto Gutierrez, Lois Kolkhorst and Sylvester Turner. Public members include Martin Basaldua, Jerry Farrington, Jodie Jiles and Robert Shepard. The committee recessed subject to call of the chair, with its next meeting tentatively scheduled for March 16th.