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Return on Investment

Every dollar invested in our state's higher education returns $5.50 to our Texas economy, fueling the state's economic engine with $33.2 billion a year.

This is a remarkable return, even for a high stakes technology startup. But when it comes to the Texas higher education system, the stakes are much higher. We are investing in our most important venture--the future of young Texans.

In an update of my 2003 special report, The Impact of the State Higher Education System on the Texas Economy, I estimate that spending and re-spending of out-of-state student, research and health care dollars adds $10.1 billion per year to the state's economic output. The higher earnings and productivity of a better-educated work force eventually increases state economic capacity by another $23.1 billion per year.

Education plays a vital economic role, but state higher education funding is losing ground to other state services. After adjusting for inflation, spending on public safety and corrections increased 223 percent in the last 15 years, while real higher education expenditures grew only 44 percent during the same period.

My TexasNextStep proposal would make higher education more affordable and accessible to more Texans, raise the skill level of the Texas work force and set Texas apart in the competition for jobs. TexasNextStep would pay tuition, fees, and books for Texas high school graduates to attend public community colleges, technical colleges or other two-year institutions.

From there, the sky is the limit. Students can either enter the work force better prepared for high-skilled jobs, or choose to continue their education at a four-year college, using a variety of federal and state financial aid programs. Study after study shows that students who receive an associate degree from a two-year college and later transfer to a four-year institution are as likely to graduate as those who enter as freshmen.

I want Texas to have the most educated work force in the nation. I will continue to fight for TexasNextStep until it is adopted and K-through-14 education is the norm in Texas. I would rather spend $2,500 a year educating a young Texan, than $16,000 a year incarcerating that young Texan.

Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Texas Comptroller