Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Texas Success: The State's Higher Education Coordinating Board Is Wrapping Up a 15-Year Plan to Boost Hispanic College Student Enrollment

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Texas Success: The State's Higher Education Coordinating Board Is Wrapping Up a 15-Year Plan to Boost Hispanic College Student Enrollment

Article excerpt

When the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board discovered through a study in 2(000 that the state would lose tax revenue and see a drop in income because its colleges and universities weren't keeping pace with population growth, it took action with the Closing the Gaps plan. The plan has a particular aim at educating more Hispanic students.

"I think we've made very substantial progress," says Dr. Raymund Paredes, commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). "I'm not suggesting we are where we're going to be, but we've done some pretty extraordinary things."

As of 2013, the last year for available data the 15-year plan, which ends next year, has more than doubled the number of Hispanics enrolled in college in the state from around 240,000 to 526,310. "I think having a plan with specific goals was helpful," says Paredes, reflecting on the initiative's trajectory. "We had targets for specific institutions, and I think that helped." According to Paredes, all of the state's Hispanic-serving institutions, such as the University of Texas at El Paso and the University of Texas Pan-American (UTPA), have performed well at increasing Hispanic enrollment and improving retention. "We had a concerted effort, and we're seeing results," says Paredes.

Implementing plans

This aligned effort moved forward by basing projects on data. "We used workforce data to project what [was] needed," says Susan Brown, assistant commissioner of the THECB. "We work[ed] very closely with the state demographer's office."

Jumping off from that, THECB let each school know what needed to be accomplished and individual campuses crafted their plans from there. As Brown says, referring to the individual campus plans, "one size does not fit all."

In efforts to increase enrollment, several community colleges began offering baccalaureate degrees and institutions started to build a pipeline with K-12 students. A majority of low-income Hispanic students start out at two-year schools, Paredes notes, according to the Coordinating Board's Tuning Texas plan, which helped associate degree students transfer to four-year schools.

"Texas has been very aggressive about making sure that anybody that wants a college credential can get one. We have three community colleges in Texas that offer bachelor's degrees. The whole intention of that was to make sure that we had low-cost pathways for students to attain bachelor's degrees," Paredes says.

However, he says, "we realized we couldn't achieve our goals if K-12 wasn't doing its job. We have worked all the critical points of the pipeline."

UTPA, for example, started a program to help area high school students apply for college. "We help them to apply to any college because obviously our goal is for the students in the Rio Grande Valley to attend college," says Dr. Magdalena Hinojosa, senior associate vice president for enrollment services at UTPA. For Hispanic student enrollment, she notes, "Our goal is to be at 20,826. I am very happy to report that we are at fall 2014 and we're going to hit 21,000."

Other initiatives the campus has undertaken include mentoring programs, a frameworks course to identify students that need additional assistance, and a centralized advising system for freshmen and sophomores. The Freshman Faculty Mentoring Program, Bronc Mentoring Experience, and Learning Framework course ease the transition from high school to college and then from first to second to third years of university. …

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