State leaders today launched an unprecedented statewide campaign, called College for Texans, to encourage hundreds of thousands of additional people in Texas to pursue higher education over the next decade and more.
"An educated Texan inherits a world of unlimited opportunity, and higher education is critical to achieving higher aspirations," said Texas Governor Rick Perry. "This campaign will help empower more young Texans to live their dreams by teaching them how to prepare academically and financially for college."
College presidents, school superintendents, and state officials joined students and teachers of J.J. "Jake" Pickle Elementary School in Austin to help kick off the campaign. It was authorized by the Texas Legislature last year and is directed by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
"Although more people than ever are enrolled in Texas colleges and universities, the increases haven't kept pace with the state's population growth, leaving Texas on a path to becoming a less educated, less prosperous state," said Commissioner of Higher Education Don Brown. "We must close the gaps in student participation and success for all of the state's people, especially for low-income groups and people in regions of the state with low college-going rates."
College for Texans also will motivate primary and secondary students to prepare and aim for college and ensure that colleges and universities reach out to embrace those students. The campaign will inspire parents, relatives, teachers, counselors, and communities to support each child's aspirations to prepare and enroll in post-secondary education.
College for Texans will reach Texas families via television, radio, newspapers, the Internet, and through a statewide network of community partners. This broad outreach approach is designed to give all people, especially families without any higher education experience, information about the value of higher education, the preparation needed to participate and succeed in college, and ways to find financial aid or otherwise pay for college.
"Our challenge is to ensure that people from all groups and in all regions of the state know that higher education is possible for them and that they should pursue it," said Commissioner Brown.
"Many students and their families believe that higher education is not affordable, or that it is too difficult for them. We must provide them with better information about how to prepare financially and academically for college, as well as encourage them to take the necessary steps to enroll and succeed in college. This campaign will help us do that."
The campaign is a key strategy identified in the state's Closing the Gaps by 2015 education plan, which was adopted by the Coordinating Board in October 2000 and has become widely accepted throughout the state. The plan calls for closing student participation and success gaps within the state, and when Texas is compared with other states, by 2015. (See the Closing the Gaps plan at www.thecb.state.tx.us.)
The plan notes that approximately one million Texans were enrolled in higher education in 2000, representing 4.9 percent of the state's population. This participation rate is lower than in New York (5.6 percent), California (6.1 percent), Michigan (5.7 percent), Illinois (6 percent) and other populous states and lower than the state's rate a decade ago. If current trends continue, Texas will have 1.2 million students enrolled in college by 2015, but that will represent only 4.6 percent of the state's population.
As higher education participation rates and educational attainment decline, average annual household income is projected to fall by an estimated $30 billion to $40 billion statewide by 2030 - with dire effects for Texas families and the state's economy, according to demographers.
In response, the campaign is aimed at helping the state bring 300,000 additional academically prepared people - beyond the 200,000 additional students expected to enroll based on current trends - into higher education by 2015. Most of these new students are now children just beginning their formal education, but some have already left high school or college without having attained a diploma, certificate, or degree.