Setting the Framework
Since the start of this century, state colleges and universities in the Texas Border region have evolved into comprehensive regional institutions striving to meet the educational needs of a growing population. From the birth of a handful of tiny colleges before World War II to a sweeping state commitment to upgrade nine public universities during the 1990s, higher education along the border has mirrored the region's rapid growth, which includes a particularly youthful population eligible for college.
Heading toward the new century, Border residents must share a commitment with state and local leaders to post-high school education that can lead to dramatic, lasting job gains and economic prosperity. Hailing the state's infusion of more than $300 million into Border colleges in 1993, Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock said, "This will help us develop one of our state's great untapped resources--the people of South Texas. And it couldn't come at a better time, as the state prepares to meet the challenge of the North American Free Trade Agreement.1
Starting with a School of Mines
Public higher education in the Border region began in 1914 with the creation of the State School of Mines and Metallurgy in El Paso. The school, later called the University of Texas-El Paso, enrolled 27 students (including one from Mexico) in its first class. The Border's first community college, the College of the City of El Paso, opened in 1918. A second higher education institution, El Paso Junior College, operated from 1920 to 1927. 2
Border institutions in other cities followed. Sul Ross State University in Alpine was founded in 1919, and Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M at Kingsville) opened its doors in 1925. Texas A&M University International began as Texas A&I University at Laredo in 1970, became Laredo State University in 1977, and merged with the Texas A&M system in 1989. Edinburg Community College, later called the University of Texas-Pan American, began in 1927, gaining senior university status in 1952 and joining the University of Texas system in 1989.3
The University of Texas at San Antonio was founded in 1969 beginning as a graduate school. The school accepted upper-division students in 1975, and gained senior university status in 1976 when it accepted its first lower-division classes.
In 1971, the Texas Legislature authorized an upper-level institution in Corpus Christi, providing courses at the junior, senior, and graduate levels. In 1989, the Texas Legislature merged Corpus Christi State University into the Texas A&M University System and approved its expansion to a four-year comprehensive university. The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents renamed the institution Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in 1993. The university began accepting freshman and sophomore students in 1994.
The Brownsville Independent School District created Texas Southmost College in 1926 as the Junior College of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. In 1991, when the Texas Legislature created the University of Texas at Brownsville from what had been Pan American University at Brownsville, state lawmakers authorized a unique higher education partnership combining the administrative, instructional, and support services of UT-Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.4 Together, the institutions began calling themselves the nation's first "community university." They share facilities and instructional staff and cultivate a seamless transition from community college to upper-level and graduate courses.
Access and Quality
Border high school graduates place no less importance on a college education than do other Texans. In 1990, Border high school graduates age 25 years or older participated in post-secondary education at almost the same rate as the state average--63.2 percent compared to 64.5 percent for the state. In fact, residents of Bexar and Webb counties exceeded the state average in having some college experience (see Table 4.1).
Historically, Border college students have studied close to home. In fall 1996, 67,500 college students from the Border region's six most populous counties were enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs at 35 senior public universities throughout the state. Almost 49,500 of these students, or nearly three out of four, were enrolled in Border universities close to home. Similar to trends throughout Texas, community college enrollment was even more localized. Border community college enrollment topped 71,000 students in 1996, almost all of it originating in the counties where the community colleges were located.
Two factors--the youth of the Border population and the region's rapid population growth--will increase demands for access to quality higher education in the years ahead. The population in the Border universities' service areas has historically been young and growing, but in 1994, a whopping 34 percent--almost 1.2 million residents--were less than 25 years old, compared to 30 percent for the state, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census. Sixteen percent of the Border population, or more than half a million people, were in the 15-24-year-old category, compared to 15 percent for the state.
Like their peers across Texas and the nation, many young Border residents expect to pursue college careers. By 2010, more than 52,000 El Paso residents alone will be in the traditional college-going population (15-34 age group), a 54 percent increase from 1997. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) estimates that by 2010, about 8,000 additional students will attend either UT-El Paso or El Paso Community College.
In South Texas, student enrollment in area community colleges and universities is projected to increase by 30 percent, or more than 40,000 by 2010, pushing total university and community college enrollment to about 170,000 students.
If projections hold, higher education in the Border region will require additional institutions and facilities--some of which have already begun. The $7 million Mission del Paso Center opened in January 1998, the first phase of a new campus planned for El Paso Community College. Texas A&M University International in Laredo first admitted freshmen and sophomore students in 1995. In other gains, South Texas Community College opened in McAllen, and UT-Brownsville became a four-year university by gaining the authority to admit freshmen and sophomores.5
South Texas/Border Initiative
Since the creation of the El Paso College of Mining and Metallurgy, Border leaders have sought additional funding for local colleges and universities (see Table 4.2). Also at play has been a desire to offer programs as good or better than the academic offerings of other public colleges and universities across Texas.
But it took a lawsuit to draw the attention of state leaders outside the Border. In 1987, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) sued in state district court alleging that Border universities were not getting their fair share of state funding. A major contention of the suit was that other Texas colleges and universities were offering more and better undergraduate and graduate degree programs in better facilities than what were available in the Border institutions. And while the Texas Supreme Court overturned a lower court's finding in favor of MALDEF, the resulting public debate over the needs of Border institutions drew the attention of lawmakers, who in 1989 approved the wide-ranging South Texas/Border Initiative.
The Initiative was an effort by the Texas Legislature to provide additional funding for Border universities and to help them achieve parity with other Texas institutions. Lawmakers merged some public Border institutions with the University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems and upgraded the status of five higher education institutions. Lawmakers also increased funding to all Border institutions. Furthermore, to improve course offerings at Border schools, the coordinating board authorized new academic programs and courses designed to have an immediate effect on Border community needs.
As the initiative progressed, the board added courses at each institution to ensure a full, basic inventory of college courses. New undergraduate or graduate degree programs approved for the South Texas/Border universities included computer science, chemistry, environmental science, criminology, gerontology, social work, special education, English as a Second Language, nursing, and math.
Institutional changes continued. Pan American University and Pan American University at Brownsville are now components of the University of Texas System, while Corpus Christi State University, Texas A&I University in Kingsville, and Laredo State University became part of the Texas A&M University System. Corpus Christi State also expanded from two-year to four-year status in 1994. And the University of Texas-Brownsville was designated a free-standing general academic institution, meaning it was no longer affiliated with UT-Pan American.
In its first year, the initiative drew upon more than $60 million in additional formula and special-item funding for program development. State lawmakers also authorized almost $240 million in revenue bonds to help underwrite construction and renovation projects at Border institutions. Through 1997, Border institutions had received more than $340 million in program and facilities funding.
Measured simply by dollars invested, the initiative made an immediate, dramatic impact. In only seven years, from fiscal 1990 through fiscal 1996, Border higher education reaped $87 million more in annual state funding, a 69 percent gain. Border colleges and universities also began to claim a bigger share of the state pie. They began the decade with $125.5 million in general revenue funding, or 11 percent of $1.1 billion appropriated to all Texas general academic institutions. By fiscal 1996, the reconfigured institutions were pulling down $212.5 million, or 15.2 percent of the state's $1.4 billion general fund appropriation to general academic institutions.
In 1996, South Texas institutions, with 15.6 percent of full-time students, received 15 percent of the general revenue funding for higher education. This was an improvement over 1990 when enrollment at these universities accounted for 13.7 percent of the state's college students and the Border institutions received 11.1 percent of general fund appropriations to higher education.
Academic program gains were equally unprecedented. On top of valuable affiliations with the state's two major university systems, Border institutions created 136 new academic programs, added 600 faculty members, erected several new buildings, and renovated still more.6
Texas' 10 public health-related institutions include health science centers and other facilities that provide health-related research, education, and patient care. The health science centers are located in El Paso, San Antonio, College Station, Lubbock, Houston, Tyler, Dallas, and Fort Worth. Other major health institutions include M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
Each health-related institution must justify its own budget request. In 1995, state appropriations accounted for 28 percent of funding to health-related institutions. These institutions obtained a large portion of funding from research awards, fees for health care services, and other sources.7 For the 1996-97 biennium, health-related institutions received $1.5 billion in general revenue funding.8
The 1997 Texas Legislature authorized a regional academic health center to serve the Lower Rio Grande Valley region by approving $30 million in tuition revenue bonds to build center facilities.9 The center will be located in either Cameron County or Hidalgo County.
Another proposal that may have long-term implications for medical education and health care services for the Border region is being considered by Texas officials and health education professionals. The Border Health Institute would mark the beginning of a partnership among Border health education and service institutions in West Texas, northern Chihuahua, and southern New Mexico to coordinate regional health studies, planning, education, and Border health research.10
Higher Education in a "Borderless" Region
Border institutions serve a multicultural population. Four Border universities exist in "twin-city" communities; that is, a Texas city and a neighboring Mexican city are linked by commerce and, increasingly, by shared resources.
UT-El Paso draws from the El Paso urban area, with 1.8 million inhabitants, and Texas A&M International University operates in Laredo, the Border's busiest port of entry. UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville serve McAllen, Harlingen, Edinburg, Brownsville, and surrounding cities, which also have close economic and cultural ties with Mexico. UT-San Antonio, Texas A&M-Kingsville, and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, while more distant from the Texas-Mexico border, nonetheless also have strong cultural and economic ties to Mexico.
Recognizing the importance of these links, the 1989 Texas Legislature waived nonresident tuition and fees for needy students from Mexico enrolled in Texas universities in counties adjacent to Mexico, and in 1991 at public colleges throughout the state.11 In fiscal 1996, nonresident tuition and fees were waived for 1,732 Mexican students at a cost of $9.9 million. Nearly 1,400 students, or 80 percent, enrolled at UT-El Paso, with the rest enrolling at UT-Pan American, UT-San Antonio, Texas A&M-International, and Texas A&M-Kingsville.12
From 1988 into early 1998, the two-way flow of goods, capital, people, and cultural influences between U.S. and Mexico increased dramatically. Each nation slowly established a larger, more permanent presence in the other, primarily through immigration and investment. Economic ties strengthened as maquiladora plants grew from assembly operations to sophisticated centers of production. As NAFTA took hold, Texas and U.S. businesses were eligible for greater direct involvement in Mexican businesses.
At the dawn of the new century, public college and university leaders face three persistent challenges: the financial hardship of many students, who despite low state tuition often find higher education too costly; a seemingly endless need to teach students material previously taught in high school; and institutional desires to increase the number and quality of academic programs at both the community and senior college levels.
While paying for college concerns most Texas families, low per-capita incomes magnify the challenge for many Border students. In 1996, 63 percent of students receiving financial assistance at Border universities came from households with annual incomes of less than $20,000, compared to 55 percent of students receiving financial aid throughout the rest of Texas (see Table 4.3). In turn, students borrowed substantial amounts to attend college. Border families paid $42 million, or 14 percent, of a total estimated cost of $300.3 million to attend Border universities in 1996. In the same year, full-time Border university students (students taking more than 12 semester credit hours) received $141 million in financial aid, including $52 million in grants, $4.7 million in work-study funding, and $83.8 million in student loans. Students at Border universities account for two-thirds of the total unmet need for financial assistance in the state.
At the federal level, the Hope Scholarship program and increased funding for the Pell Grant program are designed to make it easier for families to pay for college. Changes to these programs are to take effect in 1999.
In Texas, the Texas Tomorrow Fund allows families to prepay tuition and required fees based on prices determined annually. The program is both a means and an incentive for families to pay for their children's future higher education expenses.
Contrary to popular belief, the state's low tuition does not always benefit its neediest students. Year after year, middle- to upper-income students and their families benefit more because they end up spending less of their income on tuition.13 For example, the average student from Hidalgo County, where estimated 1997 per-capita income is $12,350, will spend almost 17 percent of his income to pay tuition. Conversely, the average student from Dallas County, where the per-capita income is $30,746, will spend only 7 percent of her income on tuition.
In states with higher tuition rates, more students tend to qualify for financial aid. Therefore the states draw down more federal funds for higher education.
It stands to reason, then, that any increases in tuition hit students and families with low incomes harder than students and families earning more. Tuition and fees at Texas higher education institutions increased 125 percent from 1990 through 1997, from an average of $916 for a nine-month term to $2,069.14
To finish their degrees, Border college and university students often run up large debts. According to the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation (TGSLC), Texas students fell deeper into debt through the early 1990s. In 1996, the average TGSLC debt for Texas students leaving school (either graduating or withdrawing) was $10,027, up 34 percent from 1994. The debt average for Border university students ranged from a low of $4,600 at UT-Brownsville to $10,300 at UT-San Antonio (see Table 4.4).
Community college student debt also increased during the period. At two institutions--South Texas Community College in McAllen and Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde--departing student debts increased by more than 50 percent between 1994 and 1996, from $2,200 to $3,600 and from $3,500 to $5,500, respectively.
The 1996 loan default rate for students at three of the senior Border universities--UT-Pan American, Sul Ross University, and Texas A&M University-Kingsville--neared the state average of 22.9 percent. The loan default rate at Border community colleges is substantially higher than the state average. Also, the share of Border university students borrowing money to attend Border senior universities ranged from 19 percent at UT-El Paso to 55 percent at UT-Brownsville.
In 1996, loans to about 21,000 Border university students totaled $83.8 million, for an annual average of $4,023 per student, less than the state average of $5,200. But because Border university students average 10 semester credit hours per session, or about three courses a semester, they take longer to graduate. University of Texas at Austin students, on the other hand, average about 12 semester credit hours, or four courses per session.15
Due to family economic pressures, many Border students work and can't attend college full-time. They often take longer than the traditional four years to graduate. As a result, fewer than one-quarter of students at UT-San Antonio, UT-Pan American, and UT-El Paso graduate within six years.
The six-year graduation rates at other UT System components--UT-Arlington, 27 percent; UT-Dallas, 32 percent; and UT-Permian Basin, 27 percent--were slightly higher in 1996. In contrast, 63 percent of UT-Austin's freshmen graduated within six years.16
Higher education officials are developing rules and regulations to implement the law. Otherwise known as "developmental education" or "remediation," the practice of reteaching college students material they should have learned in high school has been widespread across Texas, especially since the establishment of the Texas Assessment of Scholastic Progress (TASP).
The TASP, taken by high school graduates and entering college students since 1989, has emerged as the key method for universities to assign students to remediation. Students are required to pass three sections, in reading, writing, and math, before taking upper-division courses. Failing students are often required to take remedial courses to brush up their skills.
The growth in the state's developmental education programs has been phenomenal. State appropriations increased 345 percent from $39 million in the 1988-89 biennium to $172 million in the 1998-99 biennium--all to pay for remedial education at the college level.17
The Legislature established TASP in 1987 following a THECB study that found many Texas students entered college poorly prepared for college-level work.18 In the succeeding decade, all students entering Texas public colleges and universities have been required to take the TASP or a locally approved basic skills assessment instrument. Students who score well on the high school exit-level Texas Assessment of Academic Skills, American College Testing, or the Scholastic Assessment Test are exempt from taking the TASP.
The TASP is the state's sole standardized basic skills assessment test. Community colleges and universities also use tests approved by their local boards. Regardless of the test used, public higher education institutions are required to provide developmental education for students who fail any part of an assessment test before they can take it again.
The developmental education courses do not count as credit for completion of degree requirements, and the student may not enroll in any upper-division courses at senior public universities nor graduate from a community college without passing all sections of the TASP test.
The 1997 Legislature capped state funding for developmental education courses provided by community colleges and universities.19 Beginning in September 1998, the state is slated to pay for 27 semester credit hours (nine courses) taken by a community college student and 18 semester credit hours (six courses) of developmental coursework taken by a student at a general academic institution.
Despite its value in identifying students who lag behind, the TASP has its critics, who contend that too many students graduate from high school unprepared for college and, at the same time, are spending thousands of dollars a year taking "catch-up" courses. The bottom line is that students are taking longer to graduate from college, increasing costs. Critics argue that the forced extensions discourage students from completing college.21
A smaller share of Texas high school graduates pass the test each year, a drop-off explained in part by a higher TASP passing standard and test exemptions granted to entering college students scoring well on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), required for high school graduation, or college entrance exams.
In 1995, only half of Texas public high school graduates taking the TASP passed all three parts of the exam, compared to 78 percent of test-takers five years earlier.
Test results for Border students were mixed. TASP test takers from the 43 counties composing the Border region performed below the state average passing rate in 1995, with only 44 percent of test-takers passing all three parts of the test. However, the overall passing rates of students from Bexar and Nueces counties exceeded the state average. In the other largest Border counties, 49 percent of El Paso students passed all three areas of the TASP the first time, and the cumulative passing rate of high school graduates from Cameron, Hidalgo, and Webb counties was less than one-third (see Table 4.5). Even accounting for Border students exempted from the TASP because of high TAAS or college admission test scores, such a high failure rate could only be described as troubling.
Low TASP scores and related pressures to offer remedial or developmental education underscore a looming challenge for Border institutions. In September 1997, institutions' presidents publicly agreed that too many students enrolling in the region's universities were poorly prepared for college.20 Their collected numbers reinforced rising concerns. For instance:
* Sixty percent of first-year students dropping out of UT-San Antonio had a college grade point average of less than 2.0, traditionally equivalent to a "C";
* Thirty-nine percent of students at UT-Pan American had taken no college preparation courses in high school;
* Ninety percent of entering first-year students at UT-Brownsville required developmental education;
* Ninety percent of entering freshmen at Texas A&M-Kingsville took developmental education courses, and 60 percent of them still left the university after two semesters;
* The average student at Texas A&M International required 12 hours of developmental education before proceeding with college studies.
Developmental education has lengthened student stays in college by at least one year--further increasing the cost of attendance to students.
While Texas subsidizes all public college and university courses, developmental education costs more, mainly because courses require one-on-one instruction and, often, additional "laboratory" study in small groups. In 1998, the coordinating board estimated the developmental education cost per semester credit hour for a course offered at a senior university is $51.12, or $153.36 per three-hour course. The average cost for a developmental education community college course is estimated to be $175. The state's 1998-99 appropriation for developmental education neared $171 million.21 By subject matter, appropriations included more than $34 million for remedial reading courses, $37 million for similar writing courses, and nearly $89 million for catch-up math.22
As of 1998, Texas had 51 locally administered and governed junior and community college districts and three technical colleges. Enrollment in community colleges had increased by 41 percent since 1986, reaching 408,600 in 1995. For the 1996-97 biennium, the state appropriated about $1.3 billion to community colleges. Community colleges are funded partially by local taxes and partially by the state. State funding for instruction and administration is allocated through a contact hour-based formula developed by the THECB. Like senior public institutions, some community colleges also receive special item appropriations. Physical plant and related costs are borne by the local taxing districts.
The Texas State Technical College system consists of three colleges and four extension centers offering two-year technical degrees and certificate programs. Three other colleges offer two-year academic and technical education.23 These technical institutions are funded through a hybrid contact hour-based formula for administration and instructional activities as well as a physical plant funding formula.24
The mission of community colleges has historically been distinct from that of senior institutions. Community colleges offer lower-division academic courses, technical programs, literacy and workforce training, and continuing education programs. Community colleges charge students lower tuition and have an open admissions policy.
Tuition differences between community colleges and public universities also affect enrollment and funding. Average annual 1997-98 tuition and fees at community colleges are $753, compared to $2,069 at four-year institutions.25
It is important to note that community colleges provide most developmental education courses to Texas public college students. During 1998-99, more than $145 million of the state's $171 million appropriation for developmental education courses will go directly to community colleges.26 Border universities and community colleges account for $56 million of the total.
In addition, 1998-99 appropriations to Border institutions for developmental education account for a larger percentage of the appropriation for lower-division instruction than the state average. Statewide developmental education expenditures account for 10 percent of lower-division appropriations for community colleges; in Border community colleges, that amount is 17 percent.
Declining student TASP passing rates and the high related cost of remedial courses raise questions about how well Border students are prepared in high school for college work. The results also raise questions about how well colleges and universities are preparing teacher candidates to serve public school students.
A recent self-evaluation of West Texas A&M University's teacher preparation program by the College of Education's curriculum committee found that performance on the TASP test could be a predictor of success on the Examination for the Certification of Educators in Texas (ExCET). The researchers sampled the test results of 522 education students on five ExCET tests: elementary professional development, secondary professional development, elementary comprehensive, generic special education, and early childhood education. The evaluation concluded that students who scored below 256 on the TASP reading exam were likely candidates to fail the five specific ExCET exams.
Texas Teacher Education and Testing
According to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), which oversees the teaching profession in Texas, a public school teacher can be certified four ways. She can complete a university-based Texas teacher preparation program or an approved alternative certification program. She can gain certification by examination. Or she can be certified based on attaining an out-of-state teaching certificate.27 All candidates, regardless of their certification route, are required to pass the ExCET, which measures both general preparation and knowledge in the teacher candidate's chosen subject matter.
In 1996, 60 percent of teachers receiving initial certification in Texas completed a university-based teacher preparation program.28 The college preparation program for elementary and secondary teachers differed only in the coursework taken for a teaching field. Elementary and secondary certification candidates were required to take a certain number of teaching theory and methods courses, successfully complete a 10-week student teaching assignment, and maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average.
In general, elementary teacher candidates work on interdisciplinary education degrees and build expertise in several subjects. Secondary teachers must declare an academic field such as English, history, or mathematics and must major in the subject they plan to teach.29 Candidates also have to pass the ExCET before certification, although they may fail a teaching field content test and still teach for one year under a special exemption. Historically, candidates who fail the ExCET on their first try take the ExCET several more times before passage.
Sorting ExCET results for test takers by university, the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) established minimum performance levels for each state university.
The SBEC, from another vantage point, based minimum performance standards for universities' teacher preparation programs and content-area skills on ExCET results from first-time and cumulative ExCET takers, with variations by university. While the LBB's ratings allow state lawmakers to make biennial budget recommendations, the SBEC analyses help the state teacher's board pinpoint universities that may need special help in advancing teacher candidates toward successful careers.
In particular, SBEC's passing score for each professional knowledge and content area test distinguishes between individuals considered competent and incompetent in job-related knowledge and skills.30 In 1998, acceptable passing scores range from 82 in economics and 80 in German to 69 and below for earth science, biology, secondary mathematics, English, middle school science, and history--a shifting scale that allows Texas teacher candidates to qualify for certification even if they are able to master only two-thirds of their basic subject matter.
Teacher Preparation in the Border Region
According to ExCET results, teacher candidates from Border universities appear less prepared to teach than other candidates in Texas.31 Teacher candidates from all the Border universities except two scored below the state average passing rate of 83.9 percent in 1996-97 (see Table 4.6).
Border teacher candidates performed well on the Spanish ExCET, but the first-time passing rate of Border students on tests in the English, mathematics, government, history, and biology teaching fields fell below state averages---of particular concern because only one of the teaching fields had a passing standard score higher than 70 (see Table 4.7). While a direct link between low ExCET scores for teachers and low TASP scores for high school students cannot be drawn, additional probing of the test results might identify opportunities for improvement.
The fact remains that TASP scores for Border high school graduates are, on average, below the state average, although students in 17 of 156 Border school districts exceeded the state average during 1995.32
Based on prior test results, the SBEC projects that 19 universities--nine of them state-funded--may fail to meet expected minimum performance levels by September 1998. If the required passing rate were raised to 75 percent of all first-time test takers and 85 percent of all cumulative test takers, the SBEC estimates that 15 state-funded universities and 17 private institutions could not meet the minimum performance levels.33 Border universities are in the latter category.
The possibility of such high failure rates presents dramatic challenges for university administrators, faculty, and, ultimately, teacher candidates themselves.
Recognizing poor passing rates on the ExCET, SBEC notified state universities and teacher preparation programs that a minimum average on the ExCET would be expected of teacher candidates.34 As of September 1, 1998, universities will be required to achieve a 70 percent pass rate for all first-time test-takers and an 80 percent pass rate for all teacher candidates. If an institution fails to meet the minimum requirements, the SBEC will place the university on "Accredited--Under Review" status, and an intervention team will be dispatched to recommend adjustments and provide technical assistance.35
Any affected university will then have three years to upgrade its accreditation status through improved ExCET scores. After one year, if an institution has not made satisfactory progress or implemented the recommendations of the intervention team, a master will be appointed to oversee the teacher preparation program. If no improvements are made after three years, the teacher preparation program will lose its accreditation entirely--effectively going out of business.
In 1995, the SBEC created the Educator Preparation Improvement Initiative (EPII), a training program that trains individuals to provide cost-free technical assistance to teacher preparation programs seeking to improve. From 1996 through 1997, EPII conducted 75 data analysis workshops during the summer and full school year or training sessions for colleges and universities throughout the state. The workshops included certifying and recertifying volunteers, due to changes in the ExCET, to serve as peer assistants during visits to the universities.36 By 1998, more than 200 volunteers were certified, with more individuals set to be certified during summer sessions. Procedures for the selection, composition, and training of the intervention teams to be sent to struggling institutions after September 1998 have yet to be developed.37
When state lawmakers merged five Border universities with the University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems in the late 1980s, the ability of the systems to provide the necessary expertise to improve fiscal and administrative operations played a positive role. After the mergers, however, the individual universities retained control over their academic programs, leaving system administrators with limited roles.
With the SBEC's strict accountability system slated to be in place by September 1998, an opportunity exists for the state's major university systems to focus on poor student performance on the ExCET and to take steps toward making teacher preparation programs more effective. Poor performance by teacher candidates in Border institutions (and elsewhere) could lead the state to disaccredit institutions. If the university systems that oversee the institutions fail to offer assistance, inaction could ultimately lead to a reduction in teacher preparation programs of any kind in the Border region--reducing the availability of teachers in an area already facing shortages of qualified classroom teachers.
Border university students incur heavy debt to obtain a college degree to increase their earning potential. The president of UT-Pan American reports that upon graduation, some individuals double what their parents annually earn.38 The starting salary for a teacher in South Texas in 1996-97 was $22,000, 41 percent greater than the 1995 average per capita income of $15,570 for the region.39 By 1997, the average teacher salary in the Border region was $32,000.40
Throughout Texas, students work part-time and take on substantial debts as they pursue a college degree. The same is true of Border students, who may incur deeper debts because of the additional year or so they devote to remedial coursework. But the fact that many students go on to graduate after years of studying while working proves their commitment to getting a college degree, as well as the value they place on higher education.
According to a 1996 THECB report, graduating Texas students spent an average of six years in college, were enrolled for 13.9 semesters, and attempted 155 semester credit hours of college work.41 Border students took longer, spending more money and devoting more time than the ideal. Students graduating from Border universities spent as many as 6.7 years in school, were enrolled for more than 15 semesters, and took anywhere from 141 to 174 semester credit hours of college work.
Higher education officials should address inadequacies in undergraduate and educator preparation programs. Higher education officials must respond quickly and forcefully to avert an impending crisis in state educator preparation programs. State universities need to take advantage of the resources available in their institutions to strengthen their academic and teacher preparation programs.
At stake, after all, is nothing less than the institutional and personal contracts forged whenever a Texas student enrolls at a state college or university. By admitting a student, both the state and the institution have committed themselves to provide opportunities for intellectual development and professional preparation.
Students, in turn, commit themselves to preparing for successful careers and lives. They trust in the quality of their education. Ultimately, state funding of university education is an investment in the education of each next generation, with every dollar doing double duty--paying for day-to-day classroom instruction and the promise of a generation well-schooled.42 For these commitments alone, state leaders should continue to ensure that every dollar goes to enhance access and quality for all.
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