The Texas Dilemma: The Ethnic Gaps Widen

Article excerpt

In 1997, Steve Murdock, Texas State Demographer, cited alarming statistics concerning the stated demographic and social changes. Murdock's The Texas Challenge emphasized the emergence of the Hispanic population. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (2001) responded with Closing the Gaps: The Texas Higher Education Master Plan. The current article compares demographic projections in Murdock's 1997 work, The Texas Chailenge, with those in his 2003 publication, The New Texas Challenge and scrutinizes the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's Closing the Gaps by 2015:2003 Progress Report in light of demographic changes identified by contrasting Murdock's projections with one another.

Introduction

Texas State Demographer, Steve H. Murdock, began an educational revolution in Texas with the 1997 publication of The Texas Challenge: Population Change and the Future of Texas. Murdock's work extrapolated existing demographic data to create a series of scenarios regarding the future of the state. In The New Texas Challenge: Population Change and the Future of Texas (2003), State Senator Teel Bivins, a long time legislator with a distinguished record of public service, provides insight into the political ramifications associated with Murdock's work. In the foreword to The New Texas Challenge, Senator Bivins states:

I know of no work that offers a clearer vision of what is at stake for our state than the book you currently hold in your hands. The New Texas Challenge has had a greater impact on me as a legislator than any other scholarly work I have received. (Murdock, 2003, pp. xxxiv)

Don Brown, Texas Commissioner of Higher Education, comments on the importance of Murdock's Texas Challenge in regard to Closing the Gaps: The Texas Higher Education Master Plan.

The Texas Challenge is the foundation for Closing the Gaps. Looking back on the process that led to Closing the Gaps, I now realize that all of us began by asking what would be the worst thing that could happen to our state and people that education could prevent. We concluded the worst thing would be for the terrible part of Dr. Murdock's forecast to come about: that Texas would become a less and less well educated state with fewer opportunities for all our people. We next recognized that to prevent that 'worst thing' from happening, we would have to close the gaps in participation, success, excellence and research by 2015. (Brown, 2004)

Scope of the problem

Higher education in Texas, as in most of the nation, is challenged by the current economic downturn. Texas public institutions of higher education have experienced significant decline in funding and at the same time face increased demand for services. Texas public community colleges have been particularly challenged as they struggle with record enrollments and unprecedented demographic transition. The changes have placed extraordinary burdens upon local funding sources such as ad valorem tax revenue and student tuition. In an interview in 2004, Rey Garcia, Executive Director of the Texas Association for Community Colleges, voiced strong concern that public community colleges in Texas have been placed in the untenable position of meeting the needs of the populace without adequate support from the state. Garcia articulates the community college concerns as follows.

The 78th Texas Legislature, facing record funding shortfalls, enacted cuts across the state budget and community colleges were not exempt and were cut by about four percent. Coupling the cut with record enrollment growth the effect of the cut was a reduction of about 16 percent per student contact hour-setting contact hour funding for community colleges back to 1994 levels. (Garcia, 2004)

Community college districts rely upon three primary revenue sources: state appropriations, ad valorem property taxes and student tuition. Other revenue is available; however, these three primary sources compose the financial foundation for community colleges. …