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New Report Questions Texas' Higher-Ed Priorities

By Reeve Hamilton

A new study on Texas’ higher-education policy that is being released today lays out the tough choices that state lawmakers are facing and throws some cold water on one of their prize programs: the initiative to create more tier-one universities.

With a mere 32 percent of adult Texans older than 25 with at least an associate degree, the study notes, Texas ranks 39th among states. University of Pennsylvania researchers Joni Finney and Laura Perna conducted the study in conjunction with Patrick Callan of the National Center for Public Policy.

“We wanted to look at a large state that had a very fast-growing Latino population, because the country is changing that way, obviously,” Finney told The Texas Tribune. The study is the fourth in a series of five reports they are doing on higher-education policy in different states.

To remain economically competitive, the state needs to produce more graduates, the study says. But public higher education is getting less affordable — according to the report, students in 2009 were paying 72 percent more for college than they were six years prior, when the Legislature deregulated tuition.

“Texas was once known as a state where low financial aid was offset by low tuition,” the authors write in the report. “Now, the low tuition is gone, leaving only low financial aid.”

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