FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Bill Hammond
October 18, 2011 Phone: (512) 637-7701
College Completions Must Significantly Rise
Conference Talks Solutions to this Serious Problem in Texas and the Country
AUSTIN, TX—New figures in a study from Complete College America paint a bleak picture for the future of Texas, but there are ways to turn those numbers around. The numbers show few students complete the college education they start, whether it’s at a four-year institution or a community college.
“We must raise higher education completions in Texas to ensure that we have a workforce to meet the needs of the employers of this state,” said Texas Association of Business President and CEO Bill Hammond. “With completion numbers like these, Texas will not be able to compete economically with other states or with other countries.”
One dramatic statistic in the report shows that out of 100 students, 79 go to community college, and the remaining 21 go to a four-year university. Only two of the community college and five of the university students graduate with a degree on time. If you stretch it out to four years only seven of the community college students earn an associate’s degree. For university students if you stretch it out to eight years, only 13 end up with a four year bachelor’s degree.
"There is a new majority of college students today who are commuting to campus and struggling to balance the jobs they must have with the higher education they desire," said Stan Jones, President of Complete College America. "Regrettably, the current higher education system, designed generations ago for more traditional students, is failing them. For Texas to have a strong economy, significantly more of these students must earn degrees and quality career certificates. That will only happen when more students are college and career ready, and colleges and universities adopt policies and new pathways that shorten the time it takes to graduate.”
“In terms of improving post secondary completion rates, Texas has a bigger demographic challenge than any other state,” said Woody L. Hunt, Chairman of the Texas Business Leadership Council. “This significant challenge will require transformational policies to remain globally competitive. Incremental improvements will not allow us to maintain a competitive workforce.”
“Those numbers are just unacceptable and we need to find a way to significantly boost college completions. We’ve done a good job getting students to go to college, now we have to keep them there, and ensure they earn a degree or certificate.” said Hammond. “We should begin to tie funding to completions. A percentage of a state university’s funding should be tied to completion rates, and that percentage should go up over a period of time. We should also redesign certain scholarship programs and other student financial aid to reward students who stay on track to complete degrees and certificates on time.”
While it would seem that this is only a community college or university issue, it isn’t. A big improvement in public school performance would greatly help this situation. “We must also work to improve high school education. One of the reasons a student drops out of college is they become discouraged because they weren’t academically ready for college in the first place. That means our public schools have to raise the bar and graduate more career or college ready students. Right now that percentage is in the teens. We feel it should be 60 percent of the students graduating career or college ready by the year 2025,” Hammond said.
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Founded in 1922, the Texas Association of Business is a broad-based, bipartisan organization representing more than 3,000 small and large Texas employers and 200 local chambers of commerce.