The Commissioners should analyze and make recommendations regarding strategies to streamline educational pathways, ensuring students can seamlessly transition into high-wage and high-demand careers. Specifically, the Commissioners should:
- Recommend strategies to better support the advising needs and career exploration opportunities for current and potential students, including transitioning veterans and life-long learners;
- Examine drivers of student debt and default and recommend strategies for improving the affordability and transparency of higher education;
- Identify best practices to increase the efficiency of state educational institutions and private sector training programs in adapting to state workforce needs; and
- Evaluate existing efforts, particularly those at Windham School District, to reintroduce formerly incarcerated individuals into the workforce with skills and credentials for high-demand careers.
To improve transitions in Texas, a number of strategies have been identified related to educational and career advising, affordability, student success, and the Windham School District. While many students enroll in college directly after high school, that approach is no longer the sole, or even most common, path. Today, over 200,000 high school students in Texas enroll in college courses every year. Many more will pursue college after having first entered the workforce or the military, and an estimated four million adults in Texas have completed some college coursework without having completed a degree. The ability of this diverse group of students to navigate the education to workforce pipeline successfully and efficiently is vital to the state’s economy.
Educational pathways can sometimes be unclear or poorly aligned with workforce needs, which can result in students stopping out due to frustration, bearing additional expenses due to the completion of excess credit hours, or being unable to find in-demand, high-wage employment upon completion. Academic and career advising can be inconsistent across different systems and is not always readily available for non-traditional students. For many students, the largest obstacle is financial, due to factors including a lack of clear information about financial aid options, the need to work while completing a credential, and the need for resources to cover tuition, textbooks, or other necessary items such as child care or broadband access. Clarifying pathways and improving student supports can help all students as they transition through their educational programs and into the workforce.