Panelists discuss higher ed funding

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The funding of higher education dominated a panel discussion among public officials during an event Saturday at the fifth annual Texas Tribune Festival.

Texas Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes, State Reps. Donna Howard and John Zerwas and State Sens. Kel Seliger and Royce West discussed college funding and graduation rates Saturday.

West said the Texas legislature must provide more funding to public universities to keep tuition rates down.

“We have to do our best to make certain we provide the resources for higher education without making it so burdensome on the families,” West said. “There’s still a gap, if you will, in providing the financial aid necessary.”

Standardized expectations for college-readiness need to be developed in collaboration between secondary schools and higher education to decrease the amount of developmental classes students need to take before beginning their degree plans, Paredes said.

“For some reason, universities, colleges and public high school systems cannot get on the same page,” Paredes said. “We still spend too much money on remediation for courses to make certain students prepared to go to the next level.”

Zerwas said the costs for the Hazlewood exemption — a program that provides tuition exemptions to veterans and their qualified dependents — needs to be better communicated to regents so veterans get the benefits they deserve.

“We budget money for the Hazlewood exemption, but does not come close to the costs it has blown out of proportion for,” Zerwas said.

Paredes said Texas must place an emphasis on sending high school graduates to college and ensuring they graduate on time, even as universities become emerging research centers.

“We send about 50 percent of our high school graduates onto higher education, but the states with the best-educated send about two-thirds of their high school graduates,” Parades said. “Our completion rates are [also] still not where they need to be.”