Home Business of Education Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Reports on Successful Legislative Outcomes
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Reports on Successful Legislative Outcomes

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Reports on Successful Legislative Outcomes


I have written about the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and its strategic plan Building a Talent Strong Texas (also formerly known as 60X30TX). In addition to striving to have one of the highest postsecondary completion rates among states in the U.S., the THECB’s student debt goals stand out for their transparency and focus on keeping student loan balances low for graduates of their public institutions. In addition, they track the ROI of degrees offered at their public institutions.

The THECB has not shied away from tough projects. Many community colleges in the U.S. lament the difficult path for transferring credits to four-year universities in their state systems. In 2014, THECB implemented the Texas Core Curriculum, a 42-semester credit hour (SCH) for all undergraduate students in Texas public institutions of higher education. All courses designed as courses in the core curriculum are automatically granted transfer credit. This includes credit from community colleges as well as dual credit earned by high school students. THECB tracks the number of high school students participating in dual credit programs each year with a goal of increasing dual credit enrollments.

THECB’s Digital Design for Student Success project that contracted with faculty from UT Austin, Texas A&M, and Rice University to build the best online general education courses to be shared among all Texas colleges and universities (and beyond with the courses classified as Open Education Resources), was a major step toward progress in tuition cost reduction that few state higher education coordinating boards or systems have taken. All of these courses classify for earned credits in the state’s core curriculum.

When the legislature considered increasing financial support to Texas’ community colleges, THECB and its Building a Talent Strong Texas team provided support in writing and in the halls of the state’s legislature. The Texas 2036 organization supported the community college initiative as well.

Commissioner Harrison Keller’s annual state of Texas higher education address in December 2022 emphasized that Texas needs to create impact at scale. He noted that Governor Abbott and the legislature had emphasized higher education by creating the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds and $360 million had been distributed for financial aid ($200 million), innovative programs ($100 million), and new support structures for higher education including a new state data infrastructure.

Dr. Keller discussed the upcoming higher education issues on the 88th legislature’s agenda. First was a focus on affordability and accessibility, keeping Texas’ public institutions affordable and accessible for its citizens. Second was a focus on community college finance, providing the funding to align community colleges with the Building a Talent Strong Texas goals. Third was a goal to bolster the state’s research and development infrastructure by putting more of Texas’ public universities in a position to compete in the global economy.

In a June 2, 2023 press release, THECB cited the passage of Texas House Bill 8 focusing that overhauled the funding methodology for community colleges with a focus on improving outcomes and providing the funding mechanism to incentivize community colleges to add the services necessary to increase enrollments and completions. A second release dated June 9, 2023, provided more specificity about House Bill 8 including the allocation of $683 million in budget funding and tying funding to measurable student-focused outcomes including:

  • The number of credentials of value awarded, including badges, certificates, and degrees that position graduates for better paying jobs.
  • Credentials of value awarded in high-demand fields where employers are looking for skilled employees.
  • Successful student transfers from community colleges to four-year universities.
  • Completion of a sequence of dual credit courses, which are offered to high school students and can set them on early pathways to success.

Given THECB’s annual report that tracks major statistics like these, the legislature’s request for accountability will be easy for the community colleges to comply with.

The June 2, 2023 release also cited House Resolution 3 and House Bill 1595 which would create the Texas University Fund and expand the state’s investment in research at its public institutions from UT Austin and Texas A&M to included Texas Tech University, Texas State University, University of Houston, and the University of North Texas. Notably, House Bill 1595 requires the success passage of a state constitutional amendment (Resolution 3 authorizes placing the amendment on the ballot) and if successful, the Fund will become effective on January 1, 2024. Texas aims to increase research funding by $1 billion annually and award 7,500 research doctorates annually by 2030. These goals were previously stated in Building a Talent Strong Texas.

There were five bills that provided funding for additional scholarships and financial aid in addition to House Bill 1, the General Appropriations bill.

House Bill 1590 expanded the Texas Leadership Scholars program, a merit-based scholarship and leadership opportunity program for high-achieving, emerging leaders at the baccalaureate and graduate level who demonstrate financial need.

Senate Bill 2294 expanded access to students for the Texas First Early High School Completion program and the Texas First Scholarship program by including eligibility if attending public institutions other than research universities.

Senate Bill 25 provides increased scholarship and financial aid funding for nursing students and nursing faculty as well as grants to nursing education programs.

The Texas Senate also passed SB 2139 which established the Opportunity High School Diploma program. The program provides an alternative means for adults enrolled in workforce education programs at the local community college to earn a high school diploma at the college through concurrent enrollment in a competency-based education program that allows students to demonstrate knowledge substantially equivalent to the knowledge required to earn a high school diploma. Initially, no more than five community colleges may be approved to participate in the program.

THECB also reported that increased funding for student financial aid and loan repayment programs were included in House Bill 1.

I applaud the successful cooperation between the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas legislature and Governor. The Building a Talent Strong Texas education goals for the state are lofty and the annual reporting on the state’s progress toward accomplishing them is data transparency at its best. This year’s legislative accomplishments will provide funding to enable institutions to provide more opportunities for access and affordability as well as better educational outcomes.

Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston was appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity by the U.S. Secretary of Education in 2019. He also serves as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), as a Trustee of The American College of Financial Services, as a member of the board of Our Community Salutes - USA, and as a member and chair of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.


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