Expanding Opportunity and Accessibility for the Next Generation

Expanding Opportunity and Accessibility for the Next Generation

by Senator Kel Seliger

In 1999, high school students graduating in the top ten percent of their respective classes made up the first group of students who were guaranteed admission to any Texas public university.  Known as the Top Ten Percent Rule, this policy was created with the goal of increasing ethnic diversity at colleges and universities in Texas, with the ultimate aspiration of mirroring student body demographics with those of the state. Almost two decades later, it is difficult to truly determine if the Top Ten Percent Rule has accomplished that goal. While diversity has certainly increased, enrollment numbers are still low among certain ethnic groups. On the other hand, one aspect of the policy that deserves consideration is that at least one student from every high school in the state is guaranteed an opportunity to attend one of our nationally recognized institutions. While it appears there is no longer a compelling reason for the legislature to mandate admissions criteria, there are other areas of great public concern to which the legislature must respond.

With that said, the fact of the matter is that this debate is entirely irrelevant if the students who are accepted through the Top Ten Percent Rule cannot afford the cost of tuition. If we create the policy to open the door of opportunity and accessibility, we must ensure the availability of a quality, affordable education.

I intend to address the issue of rising tuition by re-filing my legislation from last session, which brings together the concepts of accountability and affordability by requiring institutions to meet high performance targets prior to increasing tuition.  As Chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee and your state senator, it is my job, along with my colleagues, to keep college affordable and the costs predictable for all Texans.

My performance-based tuition legislation would accomplish just that.  My goal is to curb the trend of rising tuition, which will decrease student debt while simultaneously demanding that institutions step up and meet performance goals like graduating more students in less time. I strongly believe institutions should be required to first demonstrate to taxpayers that they have eliminated waste and inefficiencies and increased student success before they are able to saddle students and their families with additional costs. Currently, institutions are unregulated and free to decide to increase tuition as they see fit.  Given the recent unnecessary increases in tuition by institutions across the state, it is time that we, the legislature, take action to preserve the affordability of a world class education for all Texas citizens.

As Chairman, I will conduct a public hearing related to the rising cost of tuition on April 26th, and I have invited all of the university system chancellors to testify. I invite you to attend in person or stream the hearing live from the Texas Senate website. Ultimately, I look forward to proposing common-sense solutions when the legislature convenes next January.


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