Improving the nontraditional transition

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The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recently released a report outlining updates to its long-term goal of aligning Adult Basic Education (ABE) with postsecondary education. ABE seeks to supplement the education of those students whose formal primary or secondary education was interrupted or whose first language is not English. The report is in response to an action plan drafted in 2010, which called for increasing the successful transitions of ABE students into workforce training programs and other forms of higher education.

Acting in conjunction with other state education agencies, the board moved rather impressively toward its goals in the span of only a year. By reaching more GED students, using federal and state funds creatively and analyzing gaps in delivery, the board displayed its strong commitment to nontraditional college students.

The move is a positive one for students who, for whatever reason, would not yet be able to successfully attend four-year universities or community colleges. By realistically accepting that not every student is destined to move immediately from high school to a four-year university — and subsequently committing to alleviate the educational burden on those students — the board provides relief for higher education in all its forms.

For four-year universities including UT, the benefit is clear. If students are better prepared before they arrive on campus, they stand a better chance of earning their degree, graduating on time and gaining employment.

For some students, it seems nearly impossible to jump back into the educational system after difficult schooling experiences. But if the primary or secondary educational system was not sufficient to prepare these students, it is in the best interest of the state to ensure they are educated. Investment in nontraditional students is key to ensuring that Texas remains at the forefront of economic success. A well-educated state will mean more jobs, higher wages and a better quality of life.

Though it is easy to frame the issue of higher education improvement only in terms of four-year universities, Texas is not composed solely of four-year university students. The board’s report is an encouraging sign for nontraditional students working to become productive members of the workforce against steep odds.