AJ Rodriguez and Glenn Hamer
Texas’ economy has been declared open again after the COVID pandemic. But many employers and clients seeking timely services or goods are learning that we need more skilled people in the workforce to bring us back to a fully robust economy.
The good news is Texas has people. Our state has grown by 4 million over the past decade, bringing our population to 29 million, and we could see nearly 9 million more Texans living here by 2036, when the state turns 200.
The question now is how will we prepare this growing population to contribute to the prosperity of our state, especially given automation technologies and other disruptions that will impact future workforce needs. .
One answer is Texas Community Colleges.
Texas has 50 two-year community college districts with campuses statewide. More than 660,000 Texans are currently enrolled in courses to acquire the skills and credentials needed for immediate jobs or to prepare for a four-year bachelor’s degree. Community colleges help develop and retrain Texas workers and are open to all Texans.
Ahead of the 2023 legislative session – what many hope will become a “workforce session” – it is critical to examine the role of community colleges in workforce development. It’s also crucial that we examine why we rank last among large states in the percentage of our population with post-secondary credentials.
To accomplish this, the Texas Legislature created the Commission on Community College Funding, which held its first hearings this week in Austin. Its mission is to make recommendations to the Legislature to establish a state funding formula and appropriate funding levels to maintain viable education and training programs at community colleges statewide. .
This mission should also understand how Texas community colleges can partner with high schools, employers, and four-year colleges to create career paths leading to high-paying jobs. The commission should also assess the availability and types of courses offered to Texas students.
Unsurprisingly, the Texans agree.
In August, Texas 2036 surveyed voters and found that nearly 9 in 10 Texas voters wanted community colleges to focus on offering course programs that match the needs of the local workforce. And 7 in 10 thought the state should tie community college funding levels to students finding well-paying jobs after they complete their educational program. Better workforce alignment isn’t just necessary, it’s popular and is a smart financial investment.
Each year, Texas spends more than $ 5.5 billion on community colleges, with nearly $ 1 billion coming from the students themselves, $ 1.3 billion from the federal government, and $ 3.4 billion. Texas taxpayers through general funds and designated property tax collections.
Given Texas’ need to develop a workforce for the future and fill the gaps that hamper the ability of students to succeed in the 21st century economy, this investment in human capital is critical. By 2036, 71 percent of all jobs in Texas will require a post-secondary degree, but only 32 percent of high school graduates currently earn such a degree within six years of leaving high school.
And Texas’ outlook is not on the right track as the state lags behind the progress needed to meet its goal of having 60% of 25-34 year olds graduate or graduate by 2030.
Community colleges are an important way to meet these challenges and ensure that every Texan has the opportunity to succeed.
The Texas Commission on Community College Funding offers a critical opportunity to address these challenges, and engaging the business community in this process will provide more Texans with the post-secondary credentials needed to compete for good jobs.
AJ Rodriguez is Executive Vice President of Texas 2036. Glenn Hamer is President and CEO of the Texas Association of Business.