State lawmakers Chris Turner, Brandon Creighton discuss 60x30TX higher ed plan for legislative session

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Texas Tribune’s CEO, Evan Smith, left, sits down with Texas Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) and Texas Representative Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie) to discuss the state of higher education accesibility. 60x30TX is a program which aims to have 60% of Texans between the age of 25 and 34 accredited with a degree by 2030 and increase the amount of skilled employers.

Photo Credit: Eddie Gaspar

The chairmen of the Texas Senate and House Higher Education committees met at The Texas Tribune Thursday to discuss plans to advance the state’s 60x30TX Higher Education Plan this legislative session.

“Let’s figure out how to make college more accessible,” said state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie. “Let’s see how we improve efficiencies, where we are making improvements with transferability, and how we support our community, which is so vital.” 

60x30TX began in 2015 with a goal to have 60 percent of Texans age 25-34 graduate with an accredited degree by 2030. The plan seeks to train a skilled workforce through higher education.

“Everyone is going to have to give a little bit,” Turner said. “But if we do that, I think we can improve efficiencies, get students graduated faster and lower overall costs, and free up more space in the system to keep moving people through.”

State Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, said the ability to transfer academic credits between universities needs to improve. The average undergraduate has 18 excess credit hours upon completion of their degree from courses that don’t transfer, Turner said.

Creighton said access to affordable education was a concern when he was a student at the University of Texas at Austin almost 30 years ago.

“I fought and scraped and worked my way through my own higher education experience to such degree that I aligned with the same sentiment, same emotion and the same fears that it may not be possible,” Creighton said.

Creighton said any student — whether they are first generation, a veteran or a single mom attending night classes — should have an affordable route to higher education available.

Chuck Harris, executive director of Texas Exes, said he attended the talk to support UT alumni speaking and better understand the additional challenges students face even after college. The mission of Texas Exes is to connect post-graduates with mentors or other industry professionals, Harris said. 

“As an alumni association, we hear more about getting a job after you graduate,” Harris said. “You can graduate with your subject matter degree, but are you prepared for success in your work career?”

Texas Exes works with Longhorns in the legislature, like Creighton and Turner, to address issues important to alumni, Harris said.

“We think our alumni are second to none and we want to be a force for perpetuating that in the future,” Harris said.