Partnering for Texas students

Photo by Brian Gurrola

Texas is changing fast – socio-economically, demographically, technologically and politically. These trends are driving demand for an innovative, talented and well-educated workforce like never before.

Jobs today and in the future require specialized skills and innovative thinkers. Access to higher education and the ability to move larger numbers of students from kindergarten through college commencement will be key to continued growth and success of each individual and our state.

In Texas today, about 38.5 percent of adults ages 25 to 34 hold a college degree or certificate. By 2030, 60 percent of young adults will need a degree or certificate to meet the goals laid out in the state’s 60x30TX higher education plan.

To reach these goals, our cities, counties, school districts and two-year and four-year college systems will have to make radical changes in the way we share information and collaborate to guide students through their college years. We must expand the college-going pipeline and increase the number of students who earn a degree or certificate annually from about 300,000 today to at least 550,000 a year.

One of the first places where we can have an immediate impact is within the two-year college system. Statewide, less than 23 percent of students who enrolled in a community college in 2009 had advanced to a senior institution six years later, according to the THECB’s Accountability System report.

While not every student enters a two-year college with the intention of earning a bachelor’s degree, too many students who can succeed at a university are not advancing to one. These students already have a track record of academic success. With the right pathway and support, they, too, can graduate from college.

In North Texas, The University of Texas at Arlington and the Tarrant County College District are stepping forward to dramatically alter the way we advise, admit and support students on their academic journey. The region’s largest institutions of higher education are partnering in a new Early Transfer Identification Program that will connect first semester TCCD students with transfer counselors who will support them through their associate degree and shepherd them toward a UTA degree plan from the outset.

TCCD and UTA will share relevant student data to create an early admissions record at the university level for prospective students. The record paves the way for UTA to clearly communicate with students, track their progress and invite them to special workshops and campus events. It also represents a pledge that participating students will not waste time – and money – on classes that will not count toward their major.

Perhaps most importantly, given today’s concern over rising costs and student indebtedness, from the moment the university admissions record is created, that first-time TCCD student’s UTA tuition costs will be locked in for 48 months at the current UTA rate, giving students and parents a clear financial pathway to earning their bachelor's degree.

Participating students will further trim the total cost of their college degree by maximizing credits for introductory and prerequisite courses at the two-year campus, saving the more specialized coursework within their major for the four-year campus.

The partnership also includes a “reverse articulation” agreement to ensure that TCC students who complete the requirements for an associate degree after transferring to UTA will earn that credential from TCC — another strategy for increasing the ranks of young adults with college degrees.

Texas’ 60x30TX goals are attainable, but only if our communities, school districts, two-year colleges and four-year universities continue to break down the traditional barriers that have ushered students independently through high school, college course work and degree completion.

The UTA-TCCD partnership is a model for such collaboration across Texas and represents our commitment to working together across institutions to prepare the next generation. Access, excellence and affordability in higher education are not disconnected targets. They can and will be achieved together.

Vistasp Karbhari, University of Texas at Arlington

Vistasp Karbhari is president of The University of Texas at Arlington

Betsy Price

Mayor, Fort Worth

Angela Robinson

Acting chancellor, Tarrant County College District