Texas graduates of 2024: Ready for college or the workforce?

This is a preview of our Texas 2036 newsletter taking a look at the future of the Texas graduates in the class of 2024. To receive this weekly look at our work, sign up here.

Congratulations Texas Class of 2024! 🎓

Texas graduates newsletter lead image

It’s an exciting time for the more than 650,000 students we estimate are donning caps and gowns to graduate from Texas public high schools, colleges and universities this month across our state.

Whether starting careers, joining the military, or continuing their education in one of Texas’ 148 postsecondary institutions, we know these Texas graduates look forward to making their own way in the world.

As we celebrate this year’s graduates and the resilience they have shown through the pandemic disruptions, we take a look at what the data says about what the future has in store for these newly minted graduates as they leave the schoolhouse door.

Texas’ high school graduates: Who are they?

graduates mapped image

Texas is currently home to one out of every 10 public high school students in the country, 90% of whom are expected to graduate if past trends continue. With nearly 400,000 high school seniors, our state is doing its part in preparing the next generation of Americans.

Are they ready for what’s next?

college or career graphic

Despite that 90% graduation rate, many Texas students are simply not career- or college-ready when they finish high school.

In 2022, only 69% of Texas high school seniors were considered college- or career-ready when they graduated high school.

What’s the importance of postsecondary education?

HS students group photo

In the most recent available data, only one out of every three high school graduates attained a postsecondary credential in Texas within six years of their class’ graduation.

As an increasing number of jobs require postsecondary education and/or training — an estimated 72% of jobs nationwide by 2031 — this means that for every high school graduating class, around 250,000 young adults will lack the postsecondary education necessary to compete for good jobs.

And without some postsecondary education, the opportunities to earn a family-sustaining wage are becoming increasingly limited, which may contribute to why so many Texas parents say they are worried about their children being ready for life after high school.

What it means to get a “credential of value.”

graduate stock photo

All degrees are not created equal, and landing a good job doesn’t come from getting just any degree or certificate. Students must understand what their options are, and what are the likely outcomes of their choices. This requires understanding which credentials are most in demand and are likely to lead to good-paying jobs.

👉 Read more… Credentials of value 101: What is the minimum value threshold?

“Credentials of value” are those that equip students for strong career trajectories; improve their earnings opportunities; align with high-demand jobs offered by Texas employers; and provide a typical student holding that credential with enough earnings within 10 years to pay for the cost of their education and surpass the earnings of a typical high school graduate.

Some university degrees have high ROI, but credentials of value come in all shapes and sizes.

degree vs. credential graphic

While a traditional four-year degree can still lead to a good job, it’s not a foregone conclusion. One study found that while 95% of engineering programs will produce median earnings above $80,000 per year by the time their graduates reach mid-career, it is unlikely that graduates of psychology, arts, music, philosophy, religion, or education programs will see mid-career annual earnings of $80,000 or more.

👉 Read more… Credentials of value 101: Creating best pathways to jobs

professional trade photo plumbing

Meanwhile, the U.S. faces a massive shortage of qualified applicants for skilled trades. How much?

550,000: That’s how many plumbers the U.S. is expected to be short of in 2027.

735,000: Openings for electricians through 2032. Employment of electricians is projected to grow twice as fast as the average for all occupations.

3.8 million: The estimated net need for new employees in manufacturing between 2024 and 2033.

👉 Read more… Credentials of value 101: Stacking the credentials

professional trades image electrician

Supply & Demand: Are there enough jobs per degree?

As more students pursue the same credential and AI becomes more prevalent in the workplace, it can alter the supply of workers in relation to the demand by employers, making jobs harder to find and pushing wages down.

professional trades image computer scientist

A new report in The Wall Street Journal notes that there are currently more college students earning computer science degrees than there are available jobs in the field — and while computer science jobs still pay good salaries, they are expected to see the smallest increase of eight fields reviewed by National Association of Colleges and Employers.

What we’re doing to ensure more students can earn family-sustaining wages.

young professional worker stock photo

From day one, Texas 2036 has been dedicated to ensuring all Texans have access to the knowledge, skills and credentials that can lead to jobs that will support their families.

Our work in support of House Bill 3767 (87-R), which defines a self-sufficient wage as the “minimum employment earnings necessary to meet a family’s basic needs while also maintaining self-sufficiency,” helped create a shared goal between state agencies and align career education and training programs to this standard.

And our work in support of HB 8 last year is ensuring community college funding is better aligned with the high-wage, high-demand jobs of the future.

How are we prepping for the 2025 session?

Texas Capitol with flag image

As we prepare for next year’s regular legislative session, our focus continues to be on improving workforce readiness and increasing access to “credentials of value” through:

  • Bridging classroom to career by improving high school credential attainment while maintaining, or even improving, rigor.
  • Ensuring that “credentials of value” are determined by meaningful metrics and quality data.
  • More efficiently using existing funding streams to improve workforce programming.
  • Better delivering education and workforce programs in high-demand industries to those Texans in most need of better economic opportunities.

Eyes on the Interim 🏛️

The Texas Legislature continues to demonstrate interest in education and workforce development during this year’s interim hearings as they take up charges to follow up on implementation of key legislation like community college finance reform, Tri-Agency collaboration, and high-quality curriculum, as well as charges to “study alignment of postsecondary success incentives across PK-12 and higher education systems.”

leebron bubble headshot“Today’s graduates across our state are taking their first steps as adults towards being the extraordinary leaders and contributors of tomorrow. Texas 2036 will be right there alongside them as we work together to make Texas the best state to live and work and seize new opportunities for this generation — and generations to come.”

—David Leebron
Former president of Rice University and incoming president and CEO of Texas 2036

graduation stock photo

What’s the best graduation advice that you received?

Let us know in our online survey!