Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board unveils new education plan

Cove Leader-Press

Faculty and staff of Central Texas College were given an update on the 60x30TX plan created by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to improve the number of educated workers in the state during presentations held in the Anderson Campus Center Wednesday. 
Kelly Carper Polden, assistant director of communications at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), presented the overview of the plan as well as the four goals and strategies being implemented to achieve those goals. 
The intent of the plan is to help ensure college readiness and make sure that when students graduate, that they will be prepared for the jobs available to them, she said. 
The name of the plan, 60x30TX, refers to the main goal, which is to have 60 percent of Texas adults ages 25-34 years-old with a postsecondary credential or degree by the year 2030. 
“The committee had decided that it was important that Texas produce an educated workforce that was able to adapt to change, because if you think about it, the jobs that will be out there for the students who graduate in 2030, a lot of those jobs probably don’t even exist right now, so students need to be adaptable,” Polden said. “They need to understand what their marketable skills are that will translate to other jobs, not just the job that they are getting as far as their major.”
The 60x30TX plan places an emphasis on all forms of higher education, including Level I and Level II certificates. 
Polden explained that the goal of 60 percent is achievable. When the plan was created and launched, in 2015, the current rate of Texans with a postsecondary degree or certification was 38 percent, Polden said. As of this year, the rate is up to 41 percent.
“We are improving even since this plan was launched but we’ve got a long way to go,” Polden said. 
Polden stated that in 1973, only 28 percent of all U.S. jobs required postsecondary education and skills. By 2020, 65 percent of all new jobs will require this level of education, she said. 
“We’ve got to get to 60 percent by 2030 to continue having a competitive workforce that will help the Texas economy,” Polden said. “The better the Texas economy is, the more likely we are going to be attracting more people into the state who have that credential but also having the jobs to hold those graduates from Texas institutions here in the State, so those combine to help meet that 60 percent goal of the 60x30 goal.”
Strategies proposed to achieve the goal include promoting college attainment to students and parents prior to high school; developing and implementing education and curriculum delivery systems (e.g., competency-based programs) to make higher education available to a broader and changing population; developing practices to encourage stop-outs with more than 50 semester credit hours to return and complete a degree or certificate; and collaborating with the Texas Workforce Commission to identify critical fields and providing updates. 
The second goal of the 60x30TX plan is the completion goal, those who actually complete their education through Texas institutions, compared to the number of educated persons in the state. To meet the future workforce needs of Texas, the state’s colleges and universities will need 550,000 completions by students in 2030 and if successful, the state will have awarded 6.4 million certificates and degrees by 2030, Polden said. 
To achieve this goal, they plan to increase the number of Hispanic and African American students, male students and economically disadvantaged students completing a certificate or degree as well as increase the percentage of all Texas public high school graduates enrolling in a Texas institution of higher education by the first fall after their high school graduation, Polden said. 
The third goal deals with marketable skills and planning that by 2030 all graduates of Texas colleges and universities will have complete programs with “identified marketable skills,” Polden said. 
“This goal is one that is hard to assess or quantify,” Polden said. “We’re not holding institutions to an assessment of you have to have xyz marketable skills. What we’re looking at are students who come out of your institution who get into the work world and get jobs. Obviously, they gained marketable skills because they were able to successfully get into the workplace and hopefully it’s in the area that they spent all the time studying in.”
The fourth goal is to maintain the level of student debt held by graduates of Texas colleges and universities. The goal is that by 2030, undergraduate student loan debt will not exceed 60 percent of first-year wages for graduates of Texas public institutions, Polden said.  To help control that debt, the state needs to fund higher education wisely; the students need to be financially informed and have financial literacy; and the institutions need to be efficient and hold down their tuition and fees, Polden said. 
Polden also shared the websites available for people to look at and see how the plan is doing. The main website is www.60x30tx.com. The other website is ww.txhighereddata.org.
Central Texas College Chancellor Jim Yeonopolus said he thought it was a great initiative but he had some concerns. 
He explained that completing a degree doesn’t always equal competency in that area nor does it mean the student is ready to go to work in that industry. He expressed concern over institutions that may be interested in just having students complete degree programs to get that credit and institutions, like CTC, where students move away a lot. 
“The majority of our students are military,” Yeonopolus said. He added that these students often move away and complete their degree elsewhere and that CTC doesn’t get the credit that would come with completion of a program. 
He added that some students also take just a course or two for a skill without completing the program, which also counts against CTC. 
 “I think they need to change their measuring stick with that or they need to accommodate schools like us who have a huge percentage of students who go elsewhere,” Yeonopolus said. 

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