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Recap: House Higher Education Committee Interim Hearing

August 11, 2022

The Texas House Higher Education Committee met on Wednesday, August 10. Chairman Murphy welcomed the Committee and anchored the discussion as an opportunity to discuss interim charges including:  

Overall, the Committee discussed the cost of higher education, specifically the waivers and exemptions to tuition revenue (such as Hazelwood) and the impact of those waivers to institutional revenue, coupled with declining enrollment and state investment in higher education. Legislators questioned institutional representatives on their cost-saving efforts and recommendations to lower the cost of college. The increasing costs of compliance measures including audits was also a key part of the discussion. The Public Universities Fund (PUF) was also reviewed with investments doing well at this time. 

Public testimony was taken after each interim charge was discussed.  

Panel Recaps: 

Interim Charge 3: Rising Cost of Higher Education  

Panelists included:  

  • Commissioner Keller – Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB

  • Luellen Lowe – Legislative Budget Board(LBB) 

  • Col. Thomas Palladino – Texas Veterans Commission 

    Panel 1: Panelists spoke about Hazelwood student financial aid 

  • John Pruitt- UT System 

  • Raymond Bartlett – UH System 

    Panel 2: Panelists spoke about what was working for their institutions and how to mitigate costs  

  • Eric Algoe – Texas State System  

  • Neal Smatresk – UNT System 

  • Jason Tomlinson – TWU (Texas Women’s University)  

    Panel 3: Continued discussion regarding rising costs 

  • Gina Oglesbee – Stephen F. Austin  

  • Lesia Crumpton-Young – Texas State University  

  • Russel Withers – Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute 

Commissioner Keller with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) presented to the Committee on the rising costs of higher education. The general theme of questions from committee members focused on affordability of higher education for students, with members focused on reasons behind rising costs. Keller stated some price increases have been due to facilities cost, but also growth in student services. Other drivers impacting the increase within student services include mental health, addressing learning loss and additional academic remediation for students who had stopped out and returned. Commissioner Keller also stated that higher education is personnel intensive, with inflation impacting it more than other industries because of the high cost to employee staff. This suggests that the cost of higher education is more than tuition rising, but also other aspects of necessity that are rising such as costs in housing, food services, and other expenses.  

The conversation turned to the tradeoff students are making between completing degrees versus entering the workforce. Keller said aligning state investments in student success with larger conversations about college affordability will impact students in their lifetime. The cost to students over a lifetime is much larger if students do not complete a credential versus the longer time to completion a student might face if working while taking credit hours.  The issue of credit mobility was suggested to reduce cost and increase affordability for higher education. 

Keller further highlighted workforce needs in short term workforce credentials and noncredit bearing courses that result in high demand credentials of value. He suggested the state change restrictions that are a current barrier to new programs for workforce focused training. He noted that institutions of higher education can power regional economies, remaining innovative within regions to support the workforce and impact the quantity and quality of jobs available. 

  • Watch a key exchange between Representative Frullo and Commissioner Keller regarding the state of the workforce and ways to ensure higher education contributes to a competitive Texas economy.  

Additional discussion focused on high achieving high school students who did not enroll in college or other continuing education opportunities. Commissioner Keller provided an overview of the Texas Education Opportunity Grant Program (TEOGP) and discussed options the THECB is reviewing to make state financial aid eligibility more predictable for families.

SB 1102 – Texas Reskilling and Upskilling (TRUE) 

Panelists included:  

  • Chancellor Dr. Cesar Maldonado – Houston Community College 

  • President Dr. Jennifer Kent – Victoria College 

  • President and CEO Glenn Hamer – Texas Association of Business 

Tina Jackson, THECB Workforce Education Assistant Commissioner, spoke on SB 1102, the Texas Reskilling and Upskilling in Education program(TRUE). The goal of the program is to support higher education and industry alignment in growing occupations, so students are engaged in career building programs.  

Community colleges provide over 92% of the workforce credentials in the state. Declining community college enrollment impacts employers’ ability to fill an increase in middle skills job openings. Panelists representing the business community expressed support for the TRUE initiative, vocalizing it as an investment in Texas’ future to help fill middle skills gaps for better support to the state’s economy.  

  • Philanthropy Advocates provided written testimony on philanthropy’s role in partnering with the state to implement SB 1102 – the TRUE bill. View here

SB 1295 – Comprehensive Regional Universities (CRU) 

Panelists included:  

  • President Dr. Alisa White – Sam Houston State University  

  • Vice President of Finance and Administration Jason Tomlinson – Texas Women’s University  

The Comprehensive Regional Universities (CRU) Program was discussed. Passed during the 87th Legislative Session in 2021, CRU is a $20 million allocation for state institutions to support at-risk students, funding programs and services. Funds support comprehensive regional universities which educate nearly 40 percent of university students in Texas.  

The Committee will meet jointly with the House Public Education Committee on September 20 to evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state’s teacher workforce and examine ways to improve recruitment, preparation, and retention of educators.  

The full recording of this August 10 committee meeting is available to watch here.  



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