• by Morgan Craven, J.D. • IDRA Newsletter • June-July 2019 •
Expanding access to college means ensuring that schools offer all students the courses and opportunities they need to enroll in the college of their choice. It also means that a college education remains affordable and that the path to graduation from college does not contain unnecessary roadblocks. The Texas Legislature passed several bills aiming to address these goals.
The Legislature approved House Bill 1, the budget for the 2020-2021 biennium. It includes $866.4 million for the Toward EXcellence, Access and Success Grant Program (TEXAS Grant), which provides financial assistance for eligible students to be able to attend public colleges in Texas. The majority of Texas high school graduates are economically disadvantaged, making that program critical for expanding college access. Although HB 1 increases TEXAS Grant funds by about $80 million, the funds are still not sufficient to cover tuition for all newly-eligible students.
Senate Bill 232 requires school districts to notify parents and guardians that the state no longer requires students to take Algebra II to graduate. The notification also must state that there are consequences for students who do not complete the course, including ineligibility for the Top Ten Percent Plan, financial aid and grant programs.
Op-Ed: Protect college admission laws that reward merit, work, Celina Moreno, J.D., Texas Tribune
Protect college admission laws that reward merit, hard work [op ed], Celina Moreno, J.D., Texas Tribune, April 4, 2019
IDRA’s Ready Texas – A Study of the Implementation of HB 5 in Texas and Implications for College Readiness showed that since the passage of HB 5 in 2013, which weakened graduation requirements for math, science and social studies, fewer school districts – particularly rural districts – have enrolled students in Algebra II (Bojorquez, May 2018a & 2018b). Research shows that students who take Algebra II and other higher-level math courses are more likely to graduate from high school in four years (Wiseman, et al., 2015).
This session’s major school finance bill, HB 3, requires each graduating high school student to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or a Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA). Only 61% of graduates in the class of 2018 completed the FAFSA, which is the first step for getting financial aid. Students who complete the FAFSA are 12% more likely to graduate with a degree (Kantrowitz, 2009). A parent, guardian, counselor, or the student (if older than 18) may opt out of that requirement. The bill requires TEA to convene a committee of stakeholders, counselors and administrators to advise on the distribution of financial aid information and opt-out forms.
In response to concerns over lack of coursework transparency, drawn-out degree completion, and limited transferring of academic credits, SB 25 requires Texas public universities to report any courses for which a transferring student is not granted academic credit. The report must include the reason the receiving university denied credit to the student. Additionally, Texas public junior colleges must report courses taken by transfer students or those who obtained an associate’s degree at the college.
The bill requires all colleges to develop at least one recommended course sequence for every certificate or degree program; allows junior colleges and universities to enter into credit transfer agreements for up to 60 credit hours; requires students – including dual credit students – to file degree plans earlier so they do not accumulate excessive non-transferable credit hours; and instructs the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to convene a committee to make recommendations on credit transfers and statewide collections of related majors.
IDRA will continue to support policies that expand access to higher education for all students, including increases in funding for paraprofessional pipeline programs, Texas’ Top Ten Percent Plan, and “Grow Your Own” teacher programs to address educator diversity and shortages.
Bojorquez, H. (May 2018a). “Rural Districts Take a 24 Percent Hit in Algebra II Enrollment – IDRA Ready Texas Study Examines Texas HB 5 Graduation Requirements,” IDRA Newsletter.
Bojorquez, H. (2018). Ready Texas – A Study of the Implementation of HB5 in Texas and Implications for College Readiness, published (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association).
Kantrowitz, M. (2009). FAFSA Completion Rates by Level and Control of Institution. FastWeb.
Wiseman, A., Hamrock, C., Bailie, C., & Gourgey, H. (2015). Pathways of Promise: Statewide Mathematics Analysis. Austin, Texas: E3 Alliance.
Morgan Craven, J.D., is the IDRA National Director of Policy. Comments and questions may be directed to her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.