Can Texas Achieve Its Main Education Goal?

by Dr. Michael Marder, Executive Director of UTeach and Professor in the Department of Physics, University of Texas at Austin

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has made 60x30TX one of its main goals for Texas. 60x30TX is a plan to increase the percentage of young Texans with college degrees and certificates to 60 percent by 2030. It seems hard to imagine that this goal could be achieved, because the postsecondary completion rates are so far away right now, and are about to get worse.

The main goal of Texas’s current 60x30 plan is this: “By 2030, at least 60 percent of Texans ages 25–34 will have a certificate or degree.”

Here is how it is described in the 2018 Texas Higher Education Almanac (Figure 1).

Figure 1: First Goal of 60x30TX from the 2018 Texas Higher Education Almanac

This goal is motivated by a number that has been highlighted for several years in the Texas Higher Education Almanac.

Figure 2: Higher education outcomes for Texas 8th graders from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board 2018 Almanac

The goal in Figure 1 is for 60% attainment of postsecondary degrees or certificates. The current value in Figure 2 is 22%. It appears that the rate at which Texas students obtain a college degree or certificate will need to triple in a bit more than ten years.

Figure 3: College readiness in Texas rose from 2007 to 2013, and then in 2016 it dropped back down, erasing a decade of progress

How fast is Texas moving toward the goal? The state measures college readiness of all high school students, shown in Figure 3. From 2007 through 2013, college readiness rose at around 4% per year — from 35% to 55% — meaning that 55% of high school graduates were eligible to enter four-year or community colleges in Texas without having to take remedial coursework in reading or math. Unfortunately, after remaining static for two years, college readiness fell back to 35% in 2016. This erased the previous decade of progress, and it makes the chance of achieving the goals of 60x30 seem bleak indeed.

Nevertheless, reaching the goals of 60x30TX is not impossible, because nothing is as it seems. Explaining why will be the subject of the next post.

Figures 1 and 2 are from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board 2018 Texas Public Higher Education Almanac.