Education
5:30 am
Wed November 28, 2012

Pressure Building For Texas Universities To Graduate More Students Or Lose Money

The state’s largest business organization is pushing legislation that will link higher education funding to the number of college students who actually get a diploma.

The recent Leaders & Laggards study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranks Texas in the bottom third of states for the number of students who complete college in a reasonable period of time.

Just 48 percent of Texas students enrolled in four-year schools complete bachelor’s degrees within six years.   At community colleges it’s worse.  Less than 12 percent earn their associate’s degrees in three years.

Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, says the state isn’t producing the educated work force it needs.

“ We need completers,” said Hammond.

“Whether it’s an associate’s degree or a certificate or a four-year baccalaureate or beyond, Texas is going to be facing enormous challenges in the future unless we are able to increase completion rates,” he said.

At an Austin press conference Tuesday Hammond joined with former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, now with the U.S. Chamber, and Fred Heldenfels, Governor Perry’s appointed chairman for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The trio collectively called for state lawmakers meeting in January to tie at least 10 percent of an institution’s funding to its success in graduating students.

Hammond believes there will be enough momentum in the legislature to overcome some university opposition.

“I’m afraid some of the four-year institutions in our state are expressing concern about this rather than support in their visits with editorial boards around the state,” Hammond said. 

He said, “They need to get on the train. We are not asking them to double or triple their productivity.  What we ask them to do is increase their productivity by five, six, seven percent a year.”

At least one bill has already been introduced that links even more university money to the so-called “outcomes based funding.”

State Representative Dan Branch, a Dallas Republican, has filed legislation calling for up to 25 percent of an institution’s funding to be based on graduation rates and other accountability measures. 

If Branch remains chair of the House Higher Education Committee he will be in a position to push that legislation forward.

The U.S. Chamber study was a mixed bag of news for Texas.  It gave Texas an “A” for the lower than average cost of a degree, but awarded it an “F” in another category because Texas doesn’t have a system that allows credits from online courses to be easily transferred.