The Coleman Chronicle: Texas is reaping the benefits of hard work

Jo-Carolyn Goode | 2/9/2016, 4:15 p.m.
Receiving a first-class college education is key to social mobility. When I entered the Texas legislature opportunities for minority and ...
State Rep. Garnet Coleman

Reaping the Benefits of Hard Work

Receiving a first-class college education is key to social mobility. When I entered the Texas legislature opportunities for minority and low-income students to receive a first-class education where extremely limited. That is why over 20 years ago I started the push to improve the universities around our state.

This work began to pay-off in 2001 when House Bill(HB) 1839, which I joint-authored with Representative Junell, passed. HB 1839 created the Texas Excellence Fund and the University Research Fund for Texas universities. Those funds were used to start the effort to raise multiple universities around the state to the level of the University of Texas (UT) and Texas A&M University (TAMU).

However, in 2003 the funds were vetoed by Governor Perry, and the money was moved to benefit UT and TAMU. That along with tuition deregulation in 2003 – made the dream of a first-class college education seem further away. So, in 2008 the Legislative Study Group, a Texas House caucus that I chair, released a white paper outlining what could be done to improve Texas' higher education system (click here to view that white paper). One of the recommendations was to increase the number of tier one public research universities in Texas. So, that Texas could compete with California. That and other recommendations put forward in the white paper where praised by newspaper editorial boards in Texas.

The following year I joined Representative Branch on HB 51 which setup a pathway for universities in Texas to achieve tier one status. Along with House Joint Resolution 14 by Representative Corte and sponsored by Senator Duncan, nearly 300 million dollars over 5 years was authorized to enhance our public universities.

In 2011, the University of Houston was able to become a tier one university in part because of HB 51. Last week, Texas Tech University, the University of North Texas, the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Texas at Dallas – all become tier one research universities in part due to HB 51.

Texas now has 8 total tier one research universities, 7 of which are public. Before HB 51, too many students where simply unable to attend a tier one university because of limited enrollment spots, tuition costs, and campuses being too far from home. HB 51 has helped to address these issues. Thus more minority and low-income students in Texas are now able to receive a first-class education.

There is still work that needs to be done to our higher education system, such as making it more affordable. This can be done by repealing the deregulation of tuition costs, and increasing state funding for scholarships. Furthermore, protecting what we are doing right is also important - that means keeping the top 10% rule and continuing to fund emerging research universities.

The hard work done by the legislature is paying off as we hoped for Texas. I will continue to work with stakeholders and my colleagues in the legislature to improve our higher education system. The song of the week is "Don't Be A Dropout" by James Brown.

For more information, visit www.garnetcoleman.com