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TexasNextStep a Necessary Next Step: Ensuring an Educated Work Force

TexasNextStep is a bold, new, unprecedented, but necessary next step to ensure a better-educated work force for the 21st Century.

When I was sworn in as Texas Comptroller in 1999, I set 10 principles for Texas in the 21st Century. The first three are education related, with the first being to develop a better-educated work force. My goal was clear then and it is clear today--I want Texas to have the most educated work force in the nation!

TexasNextStep can make that happen. By leveling the playing field and offering all Texas students the opportunity for higher education, TexasNextStep makes it possible for every Texas high school graduate to attend college for two years free at any public community college, technical or two-year institution. It truly makes K-14 education the norm and provides a step up for those who seek to advance their education as far as their talents can take them.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by the year 2030, 60 percent of Texans will have only a high school diploma or less. I say "Hogwash," TexasNextStep will prove them wrong! The key to Texas' economic future is a better-educated work force. We no longer talk about education in terms of K-12, but K-16 and beyond. This generation must compete not only with those from New York and California, but Europe and Asia as well.

TexasNextStep provides the key to Texas' economic future--a better-educated work force--by providing every Texas high school graduate with up to 60 semester credit hours (plus additional hours for remediation if needed) at any public community, technical or lower-division institution in the state.

With K-14 the norm, it gives students the education they need to enter the work force directly, at a higher salary with upward mobility; or, they continue their education by transferring to a senior-level college or university.

Funded by a small portion of lottery revenues, (I have identified ongoing cost-savings in state government to more than replace these dollars), TexasNextStep would pay tuition and required fees, plus the cost of textbooks, to every Texas student who enrolls within 16 months of high school graduation.

TexasNextStep takes advantage of one of our greatest educational resources--our community colleges and their ability to locate and expand rapidly through the use of shared facilities, which helps hold down the cost of providing facilities for the thousands of new students who will enroll in Texas colleges and universities in the coming decades.

Research consistently shows that community colleges can be an excellent stepping-stone to a four-year university. In national studies, for those who receive an associate's degree at a community college and transfer to a university, the bachelor's degree completion rate is 70 percent, often higher than it is for entering freshmen at that same university.

TexasNextStep will create a seamless transition from high school into higher education and an educated work force, and guarantee, at the very least, K-14 and beyond for our most precious resource--all Texas children. It is, indeed, a very necessary next step!

Carole Keeton Rylander
Texas Comptroller