Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott has unveiled the fourth and final phase of his "Educating Texans" policy plan in Dallas.
In remarks delivered at the University of Texas at Dallas on Tuesday, Abbott emphasized the importance of increasing the affordability and accessibility of higher education. Abbott offered reforms that will ensure more students graduate on time, hold public colleges and universities accountable for student outcomes and leverage technology and online learning, ultimately allowing Texas universities to become among the very best in the nation.
"We must help every Texan climb the ladder of success," Abbott said in discussing his vision for Texas' higher education system. "We do that by making higher education more affordable for more Texas families, graduating more students on time and by elevating our colleges and universities to the top ranks in the nation. If Texas is to continue to lead the nation in job creation, we must also lead in education - from pre-k through 12th grade and to college and beyond. My 'Educating Texans' plan is the first of many steps to get us there."
In his proposals, Abbott outlines the need to:
- Implement outcomes-based funding at four-year institutions.
- Establish block scheduling for two-year associate degree programs.
- Adopt a statewide AP credit-by-exam policy requiring public institutions to award college credit to high school students scoring a three or above on AP exams.
- Expand access to online courses and count them toward degree requirements.
- Fully fund tuition and fees for military families who qualify for Hazlewood Act exemptions.
- Increase state support for emerging research universities by increasing appropriations to the Texas Competitive Knowledge Fund.
To learn more about the plan, visit Townhall254.GregAbbott.com.
Educating Texans Phase 4 Policy Speech:
*Greg Abbott often deviates from prepared remarks. The following has been condensed for purposes of brevity:
The first three phases of my "Educating Texans" plan focuses on building a solid foundation of excellence in pre-k through third grade, returning genuine local control to our schools and empowering teachers with more tools to help our students succeed in reading and math.
This - the fourth part of my "Educating Texans" plan - focuses on making higher education in Texas more affordable by reducing the crushing burden of student loan debt. It focuses on getting more students graduating on time and holding public colleges and universities accountable to that goal. And it helps our universities become among the very best in the nation.
One way to make college more affordable is to give students college credit for successful AP courses. These early college credits can help students graduate quicker, saving tuition dollars for the student's family and lessening the need for grant and loan dollars.
For many high school students and returning adults, community college is the next step up the ladder. But these students sometimes spend an additional year taking courses that don't transfer to four-year universities. That's a waste of their time and it unnecessarily adds to their tuition expense and debt burden. To lower the cost of higher education and to expedite it, we must make core freshman and sophomore courses more consistently transferable between our community colleges and our public colleges and universities.
We must also do more to help students who work their way through college. About half of all college students in Texas attend school part-time while working jobs to help pay for their education. To help more students attain a two-year associate degree while working or raising a family, I propose block scheduling for all two-year degree programs. Students can take their classes in blocks of time - morning, afternoon or evening blocks - so they will have more time available to work.
Another cost saver is more online learning opportunities. The current model of higher education is still largely centered around brick-and-mortar classrooms where an educator teaches a limited number of students for a specified amount of time on a specific schedule. Digital learning allows students to progress based on competency rather than seat time, saving time and money. We must increase online college learning opportunities and count successful completion of those courses toward degree requirements.
To ensure we get more students graduating on time with less debt and with the skills employers need, we must hold colleges and universities accountable for the product they are providing. I'm proposing a portion of funding for public four-year institutions be based on outcomes. These outcomes should include on-time graduation. But we also need to look beyond just the number of degrees awarded. We also need to look at the number of degrees awarded in critical fields, the cost of those degrees and even the employment rate of graduates.
Finally as much as Texas rightfully brags that we're better than California, there is one area where California ranks above Texas. Four of the top ten ranked public universities are in California. None are in Texas. That must change. We have the resources, the business partners and the people to elevate higher education in Texas to the best in the nation. We just need commitment. I'll make that commitment.
The flagship universities at UT and Texas A&M should be two of the top three public universities in the country. The University of Houston, Texas Tech and UT-Dallas should join their ranks as top tier public universities. Texas State University, The University of North Texas, plus UTSA, UT-Arlington and UT-El Paso all are emerging research universities poised for greatness.
I will work with all of them to recruit the best talent, to develop partnerships with the private sector and to elevate their national research standing.
We must help every Texan climb the ladder of success. We do that by making higher education more affordable for more Texas families by graduating more students on time and by elevating our colleges and universities to the top ranks in the nation. If Texas is to continue to lead the nation in job creation, we must also lead in education from pre-k through 12th grade, to college and beyond. My "Educating Texans" plan is the first of many steps to get us there. Thank you.