Greg Abbott, attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate, advocated making credits transfer more easily and expanding online credit-eligible courses in releasing his higher education plan on Tuesday.
Calling for UT and Texas A&M University to become two of the top three public universities in the U.S., Abbott said affordability was key for higher education in Texas. He said community college courses need to be more transferable to increase affordability.
“For many high school students and returning adults, community college is the next step up the ladder,” Abbott said. “But these students sometimes spend an additional year taking courses that don’t transfer to four-year universities. That’s a waste of their time, and it unnecessarily adds to their tuition expense and debt burden.”
Abbott promised to be integral to the University and education improvement process.
“I will work with [universities] to recruit the best talent, to develop partnerships with the private sector and to elevate their national research standing,” Abbott said.
In his plan, Abbott also said public universities in the state should accept Advanced Placement scores of three and above for college credit.
Education associate professor Anthony Petrosino said, while the policy may have had good intentions, there may be unintended consequences for students and public university outsiders.
“If high schools decide to make a big push and make more people take more AP classes, [then] that high school may put more of their better teachers on AP,” Petrosino said. “What will that do to the general courses for high school students?”
Government professor Henry Dietz said it is difficult to determine whether courses can transfer from a community college to UT for credit.
“It’s a matter of equivalence,” Dietz said. “Do ACC students really get the same training and value if they take the same class here at UT? It’s a very tricky question.”
Petrosino said online courses also raise questions of credibility.
“This notion of expanding access to online courses and counting them towards degree requirements — there’s an area that needs development,” Petrosino said. “I do think we have to be a little reflective of the issues that come up with quality. Is it the same experience for the students? Is the content learned online a similar experience to taking courses in person?”
Petrosino said the policy points only touched on the edges of bigger issues.
“There’s this fundamental issue about how much the state, in general, supports public education at the university level,” Petrosino said. “As they pull away from supporting public universities, operating budgets put more pressure on families for tuition [and] on universities for being more efficient. It puts some pressure on the whole system.”