EDUCATION COMMITTEE HEARS PROGRESS REPORT
(AUSTIN) — The Senate Education Committee met Wednesday to hear from state education officials about the implementation of reforms passed by the Legislature last session. Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Raymund Paredes began the hearing by reporting on the progress of Texas' "Closing the Gaps" initiative. This program seeks to increase college enrollment and graduation rates for all Texas high school students, but focuses on increased enrollment for minority students. Paredes said the state is on track to meet its enrollment goals by 2015, adding 235,000 more college enrollees as of 2007. A little more than half of all Texas High School graduates attend a two- or four-year institution. Enrollment among minorities is up since 2000, an increase of 49 percent for Hispanics and 38 percent for African-Americans.
College completion rates were also up, said Paredes, increasing by 152,000 degrees in the last seven years. Again, the largest percentages of growth were among minorities, with a 67 percent increase in college graduation for Hispanics, and 44 percent for African Americans.
The committee also heard testimony relating to last session's $275 increase in per-student allotment for Texas High Schools. The program, which will cost the state $641 million in 07-08 biennium, encourages school districts to use the money to increase graduation rates and reduce dropouts. Texas Education Agency official Barbara Knaggs testified that a recent survey conducted by her agency showed that schools are using the money as the Legislature intended. Schools use the additional money to pay for standardized college entrance exams, teacher training for Advanced Placement programs, for dual credit programs with local colleges, and for enhancing remedial education programs.