Community Colleges and Universities Must Turn out More Graduates, Texas Panel Says: Report Finds State's Economic Competitiveness Threatened

Article excerpt

Community Colleges and Universities Must Turn Out More Graduates, Texas. Panel Says: Report Finds State's Economic Competitiveness Threatened

AUSTIN, Texas -- Colleges and universities will have to turn out thousands more graduates for Texas to remain economically competitive, according to a ground-breaking report by a coalition of higher education institutions from across the state.

The report by the Higher Education Coalition, entitled "The Competitive Edge," also says that schools will need about $750 million dollars to improve their graduation rate and to develop retention programs and other measures to attract more students.

Members of the coalition say they plan to ask the Texas legislature for the money when lawmakers convene here for their next session in January.

"This is the first time in Texas that all the higher education groups have come together and agreed in a joint proposal that this is what we need," says Dr. J. William Weinrich, chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District.

Weinrich, who also serves as president of the Texas Association of Community Colleges, said the state's fifty community college districts, which have about 400,000 students, would split about $200 million of the money for which the coalition is asking.

At stake, Weinrich and other coalition members say, is nothing less than the state's future.

Texas colleges and universities handed out about 66,000 bachelor's degrees to students in 1993 -- the latest year for which figures are available. But the coalition says they will need to increase that to 81,000 by 2003. The panel has suggested increasing the number of transfer students from community colleges to four-year institutions by 15,000 a year could help the state reach that goal.

If Texas does not reach that goal -- and does not continue to increase those numbers beyond 2003 -- the report warns that the Lone Star State's tax base could crumble and leave it in economic ruins and without an educated workforce.

"This state has a very diverse and pluralistic society," says Weinrich. "But the young folks here who aren't educated are going to be a real liability. We have a chance to turn them into one of the state's greatest assets. Basically we have a choice of where we are going to put our money -- into education or into welfare and prisons."

Texas state Comptroller John Sharp has praised the report, saying Texas for too long has paid attention to every natural resource -- cattle, cotton, oil, real estate -- except its growing and increasingly diverse population. …