It’s Time to Double Down on Higher Ed

Colleges and universities across Texas and the country are beginning their fall semesters. Some students are learning on campus and others are learning from a distanced laptop.

But what’s important is that they are learning.

While the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic are both trying and unusual, there is hardly a time when higher education has been more important. Most jobs require a postsecondary credential, and 71 percent of jobs are expected to require a credential by 2036. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers who have earned a bachelor’s degree are twice as likely to find or retain a job during this pandemic. And if the recession that began in 2008 is any indication, most of the jobs that will be created as we work out of this economic downturn will require a college certificate or degree.

But our future workforce is not set up for success. Only one-third of Texas high school graduates earn a college degree or credential within six years of finishing high school. In order for the state’s economic success to continue and expand, more — many more — of our young people need to successfully finish a college credential.

This is why education and workforce is one of our core policy areas — because it’s so important to our future, as individuals and fellow Texans. Earlier this summer, Texas 2036 released a strategic framework that takes a comprehensive look at forces shaping Texas’ future. Of the 36 strategic goals Texas 2036 lays out five focus on education and workforce as being critical to our state’s future prosperity.  A thread running through all of these issues is human capital, both developing Texas’ future workforce and closing gaps that impede people’s ability to succeed in the 21st century economy.

It’s also why students need to stay enrolled in higher education, even if the current circumstances are not ideal. While many families are struggling to pay for higher education during these turbulent times, Governor Abbott has designated millions of federal relief dollars to help with those costs and to help displaced workers get the education that will help them land a better job in the future. That commitment to funding higher education and supporting students needs to continue during next year’s legislative session.

Students need to make every effort to continue working toward a certificate or degree. The rewards are too great, for individuals and for our economy, for them to get derailed.