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Inside Texas Higher Education

An Interview of Commissioner Harrison Keller (THECB) by Evan Smith (Texas Tribune)

September 17, 2021

Philanthropy Advocates had the privilege of hosting our members during the Educate Texas Fall Policy Convening as Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Commissioner, Dr. Harrison Keller, sat down with Texas Tribune CEO, Evan Smith to discuss the 87th Legislative Session and the current state of higher education. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many expected the 87th session to focus on Higher Education following the successes brought through the passage of HB 3 in the 86th Legislative Session in 2019. Pandemic challenges forced the legislature to pivot while still acknowledging enrollment declines in colleges and a miss on funding for community colleges. Despite continuing challenges, the commissioner remains hopeful that through the legislature’s creation of the Community College Finance Commission, legislators will continue to address these challenges in the upcoming session in 2023.  

Commissioner Keller also discussed how COVID-19 has impacted the higher education world, as institutions took a 5% funding cut and many students continue to face additional challenges to their financial situations. He highlighted the aid of philanthropy as a key contributor to the success of institutions’ ability to distribute emergency aid, as philanthropy provided resources to allow institutions of higher education to strategically deploy public dollars.  

Commissioner Keller noted the impact of the pandemic on the state’s 60x30TX plan, issuing a call to action. There is a need to raise the bar and assess what communities need to ensure adult learners are acquiring new skills, as well as looking at learners who are older than 35, to ensure new jobs for adults and continuing education opportunities. Smith questioned whether higher education leaders see their identity as workforce or academic. Keller responded that 60x30TX goals moving forward aim to partner closely with the Texas Workforce Commission, including a state credential repository to bridge this divide.  

Thank you to Commissioner Keller and Evan Smith for participating and sharing their insights with our members and partners.  


Philanthropy Advocates, a collaboration with Educate Texas, serves as an integral part of the Policy and Advocacy team at Educate Texas. View Educate Texas’s approach to policy and advocacy.

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