FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 16, 2003
AUSTIN, TX--State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. re-filed a bill for the current special session that would implement the TexasNextStep Program giving Texas high school graduates an opportunity to complete up to two years of their education at a state public community, technical or lower-division college.
Senate Bill 32, filed as Senate Bill 1200 in January during the 78th Legislature's Regular Session, passed in the Senate but was stalled in the Higher Education Committee in the House.
"I brought this bill up again because it means greater opportunities in higher education for thousands of young people statewide who would otherwise not have the ability to attend college," said Sen. Lucio. "If special session affords this bill another chance, then I am willing to give it another try."
TexasNextStep was first proposed by Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn last year. She said,"I appreciate and thank Senator Lucio for his continued leadership for future generations of Texans in re-introducing this bill. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has said that by the year 2030, 60 percent of Texans will only have a high school diploma or less. I say 'Hogwash!' We need to attract high-paying, high-skilled jobs to our state; we should have the most educated workforce in the country. I would rather spend $1,700 a year educating young Texans than $15,000 incarcerating them."
TexasNextStep would pay the tuition and required fees, plus textbooks, to every student who registers within 16 months of high school graduation. To be eligible, a student would have to be a Texas resident, enroll for at least one-half of a full course load, and have graduated from a public high school or accredited private high school. To receive TexasNextStep, students must be eligible to receive federal student financial aid, except for demonstrating financial need. (For example, male students must register for Selective Service.)
Enrollees must comply with any non-academic requirements adopted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which will also be required to prepare a biennial report on the participants' academic progress.
To remain in the program, students must remain enrolled in an associate degree or certificate program and take at least one-half of a full course load per semester (unless in final semester and ready to graduate). This program extends to a maximum of 90 hours, including remedial classes. Participants must also make satisfactory academic progress and continue to meet federal student financial aid eligibility requirements, except for meeting financial need requirements.
Failure to meet any requirements of the TexasNextStep would disqualify a student. After completing the program, students can either enter the workforce or continue their education in a senior-level institution. Students must demonstrate financial need in order to receive financial assistance for tuition and fees through the TEXAS grant program.
"TexasNextStep is a great program for many reasons: a better-educated work force; an increase in the number of college graduates; and holding down the increasing cost of college attendance," stated Sen. Lucio. "It also affords students the opportunity to stay home for at least the first two years of college, helping keep costs even lower for them, and also offers working students the availability of flexible schedules at community and technical colleges.
"The TexasNextStep is the best first step we can offer our Texas students," added Sen. Lucio. "And this is why I continue to push for this noteworthy legislation."
Note: Ms. Perla Cavazos, senior policy analyst, is handling this legislation.