'College for Texans' Launches Here Tuesday, Seeks to Reverse Alarming Trend in Texas Higher Education

On Tuesday, Nov. 12, Laredo education leaders will kick off local efforts that are part of an unprecedented statewide campaign, called "College for Texans," aimed at encouraging hundreds of thousands of additional Texans to pursue higher education over the next decade and more.

At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, local leaders and champions of higher education will board a traditional yellow school bus dubbed the "Higher Education Express" to visit two Laredo elementary schools campuses: Laredo Independent School District's J.C. Martin Elementary School and United ISD's Newman Elementary School to encourage students to stay in school and pursue higher education. Students at each site will be cheered on by a combined cheer squad of Laredo Community College and Texas A&M International University cheerleaders who will urge students to sign up for "College for Texans."

"College for Texans," authorized by the Texas Legislature last year, is directed by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Local THECB Member Dr. Ricardo G. Cigarroa said the innovative campaign is designed to encourage, motivate and inspire.

" 'College for Texans' will motivate primary and secondary students to prepare and aim for college; inspire parents, relatives, teachers, counselors, and other communities to support each child's aspirations to prepare for and enroll in post-secondary education; and ensure that colleges and universities reach out to embrace those students," said Dr. Cigarroa.

Mayor Betty Flores said she is impressed by the campaign's multi-media effort to deliver the campaign message. The slogans for the campaign are: Education. Go Get It, and La Educación. Saber es Poder.

" 'College for Texans' will reach families in Laredo and across Texas via television, radio, newspapers, the Internet, and through a network of community partners. This broad outreach approach is designed to give all Texans, especially families without any higher education experience, information about the value of higher education, the preparation needed

to participate and succeed in college, and how to find financial aid or otherwise pay for college," said Mayor Flores.

Texas A&M International University president Dr. Ray Keck said that despite record high enrollment, these increases are not in sync with the State's tremendous population growth.

"Although more people than ever are enrolled in Texas colleges and universities, the increases haven't kept pace with the state's population growth, putting the state on a path to becoming less educated and less prosperous," said Dr. Keck.

Dr. Ramon Dovalina, said the collaborative effort requires strong local support to 'close the gaps.'

"Locally, we must do our part to close the gaps in student participation and success, especially among low-income and other groups that in the past have not set college goals," concurred Dr. Dovalina.

"Our challenge is to ensure that people from all groups and in all regions of the state know that higher education is possible for them, and that they should pursue it," said THECB director Don Brown, "Many students and their families believe that higher education is not affordable, or that it is too difficult for them. We must provide them with better information about how to prepare financially and academically for college, as well as encourage them to take the necessary steps to enroll and succeed in college. This campaign will help us do that."

The campaign is a key strategy identified in the state's Closing the Gaps by 2015 education plan, which was adopted by the Coordinating Board in October 2002 and has become widely accepted throughout the state. The plan calls for closing student participation and success gaps within the state and when Texas is compared with other states by 2015. (See the Closing the Gaps plan at www.thecb.state.tx.us.)

Approximately one million Texans are enrolled in higher education today, representing 4.9 percent of the state's population. This participation rate is lower than in New York (5.6 percent), California (6.1 percent), Michigan (5.7 percent), Illinois (6 percent) and other populous states, and lower than the state's rate a decade ago. If current trends continue, Texas will have 1.2 million students enrolled in college by 2015, but that will represent only 4.6 percent of the state's population.

As higher education participation rates and educational attainment decline, so will annual household income - by an estimated $30 billion to $40 billion statewide in 2030 - with dire effects for Texas families and the state's economy, according to demographers.

In response, the campaign is aimed at helping the State bring 300,000 additional academically prepared people - beyond the 200,000 additional students expected to enroll based on current trends - into higher education by 2015. Most of these new students are now children just beginning their formal education, but some already have left high school or college without having attained a diploma, certificate, or degree.

For more information, contact local campaign co-chairs, Becky Sepulveda at LCC, 721-5140 or Steve Harmon at TAMIU, 326.2180.


Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu