Ahead of Higher Ed: Texas hopes to close the gaps
In February, Raymund Paredes, the commissioner of higher education at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, touted the successes of the Closing the Gaps by 2015 plan at the UH System’s Board of Regents meeting.
During a meeting Tuesday with the Senate higher education committee, however, the Board expressed concern in meeting its goals regarding Hispanic student completions and science, technology, engineering and math degree awards.
In 2013, Texas schools awarded more than 242,000 undergraduate degrees, which already passes the Board’s 2015 goal of 210,000. A subsequent goal is to award 67,000 of those degrees to Hispanic students — something that has yet to happen. However, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Deputy Commissioner David Gardner expects to meet that goal by next year.
“We are making progress,” Gardner said to the Houston Chronicle. “While we need more Hispanic students participating, the Hispanic students enrolling are much more successful than they were in the past.”
Gardner also explained the shortage of STEM degree completions, which is up 51 percent since the goal was set in 2000, is a national trend “not unique to Texas,” according to the Houston Chronicle.
In 2010, the Board created the Accelerated Plan for Closing the Gaps by 2015 that addresses some of these problems at the high school level. This new plan, which works with the original plan, “focused specifically on increasing Hispanic and African-American participation and success rates, expanding the number of teacher certifications as well as placing heightened emphasis on increasing graduates in (STEM) fields of study,” according to a press release.
During the four years, the Accelerated Plan provided more high-school-level programs that benefit and prepare future first-generation college students.
“We are pleased that many of the interventions and strategies outlined in the Accelerated Plan have led to marked improvement in key areas where Texas was struggling,” Gardner said. “But we still have a lot of work to do to engage and inspire young African-American and Hispanic males, particularly at the eighth-grade level.”