• By Steve Kemgang • IDRA Newsletter • June-July 2023 •

The Texas legislative session introduced changes to college readiness and access for Texas students. While some measures will benefit high school and future college students with more resources, others compromised diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs that provide critical support systems for students to access and succeed in college.

Legislators Invested in Students’ College Readiness and Access

State lawmakers heeded the recommendations of the Texas Commission on Community College Finance and passed House Bill 8 (Kemgang, March 20, 2023). A bipartisan proposal, this bill allots additional state funding for community colleges based on performance outcomes. The bill also establishes a dual credit scholarship program for high school students from low-income households. This will help reduce financial barriers for eligible high school students to earn college credits toward a future associate’s or bachelor’s degree upon high school graduation.

Research shows that such early access to advanced courses that confer college credit leads to increased graduation rates and college preparedness among students from low-income backgrounds and rural areas (Bojorquez, 2019; Bojorquez, 2018; Leflore, 2019).

IDRA Education Policy Fellow, Steve Kemgang, testifies before the Texas House Higher Education Committee for better access to dual credit courses.

Altogether, lawmakers voted to allocate $42.9 billion toward Texas higher education. Unfortunately, part of that investment was dependent on passage of Senate Bill 17 that restricts DEI initiatives in public Texas universities, limit academic freedom, and institute a new tenure definition, review and dismissal framework (Adkison, 2023).

Some proposed bills would have reduced college readiness and access opportunities for Texas students of color and those from households with low incomes. IDRA and coalition partners successfully opposed HB 2615 (Kemgang, April 2023). Had it passed, it would have created vocational education pathways as an alternative option in high schools with severely reduced course requirements that would disqualify those students from college-ready milestones and consideration under the Top Ten Percent Plan. To date, only 53% of Texas students graduate college-ready overall (IDRA, 2023).

Legislators Attacked DEI in Texas Public Universities

College DEI initiatives provide important support mechanisms for historically marginalized students to access and succeed in college. They offer financial scholarships, targeted advising, internship and employment opportunities, and support for students’ campus life.

SB 17 was both one of the most contentious bills this session and was strongly opposed by university students, faculty and education advocates. As proposed, it was designed to shut down DEI offices and policies in public colleges across the state. IDRA argued that this bill would compromise K-12 programs housed under DEI offices, which develop much-needed college access pipelines for students (Arsenis, et al., 2021).

The final version of the bill that was passed effectively defunds and prohibits DEI offices in all Texas public universities. Some initiatives are exempted, such as admissions, student organization activities and recruitment, and academic course instruction and research. And the bill requires a study every two years to monitor its overall effects on enrollment, retention and graduation of students by race, sex and ethnicity at various institutions (Kemgang, May 2023).

Through concerted efforts with lawmakers, legislative staff, partnering organizations and coalition members, IDRA worked to ensure that all students have a fighting chance in accessing and succeeding in college. While much work lies ahead, the inspirational advocacy by students, families and community members demonstrates the need to continue advocating for the success of all students.


Arsenis, P. Haskett, D. Lehman, M., & Lopez, V. (2021). Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Building the Pipeline of the Future. LEAD-YP.

Bojorquez, H. (2018). Ready Texas: A Study HB5 Implementation in Texas and Implications for College Readiness. IDRA.

Bojorquez, H. (2019). College Bound and Determined. IDRA.

IDRA. (2023). 5 Data Snacks – Infographic.

Kemgang, S. (March 20, 2023). HB 8 Establishes a Pathway to Increase Disadvantaged Students’ Dual Credit Enrolment and Expand their Access to Opportunities in Higher Education – IDRA Testimony for House Bill 8 Submitted to the Texas House Higher Education Committee.

Kemgang, S. (April 20, 2023). HB 2615 Would Disproportionally Target Marginalized Students to Pursue Vocational Education Pathways – IDRA Testimony against House Bill 2615, Submitted by Steve to the Texas House Public Education Committee.

Kemgang, S. (May 8, 2023). Prohibiting College DEI Programs Would Particularly Impact Marginalized K-12 Students IDRA Testimony Against SB 17, submitted by Steve Kemgang to the Texas House Higher Education Committee.

Leflore, V. (2019). The Importance of Early Exposure to College for First-generation and Low-income Students.

Steve Kemgang was an IDRA Education Policy Fellow in 2022-23. Comments and questions may be directed to him via email at contact@idra.org.

[©2023, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the June-July 2023 edition of the IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]