Raymund A. Paredes
Commissioner of Higher Education, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

To maintain global competitiveness, Texas must graduate more students with postsecondary credentials, including degrees and certificates. Currently, only 35 percent of this population holds a two or four-year degree.  If we include certificate programs, that number increases to just 38 percent.

That is not good enough for a 21st century economy, and it is not good enough for Texas.  We want to move that number to 60 percent — closer to two out of three students — and we want to do it by 2030.

The state’s new, 15-year strategic plan, 60x30TX, is an ambitious challenge to our higher education system. It was designed to dramatically increase educational achievement and workforce readiness throughout the state that will translate into continued growth for Texas and greater opportunity for Texans in the global economy.

According to the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, Americans without a college education are left behind in the modern economy. A recent Georgetown University study found that in the recent post-recession economy, more than 99 percent of job growth in the recovery went to workers with more than a high school education; workers with a high school diploma or less saw virtually no jobs recovery.*

Under 60x30TX, the overarching goal states that by 2030, at least 60 percent of all Texans between the ages of 25 and 34 will have a postsecondary degree or certificate. Our intent is that by 2030, Texas colleges and universities will award degrees and certificates to 550,000 students in that year, which means that 6.4 million credentials will be awarded over the next 15 years. This will be a big jump from the current figure of 259,000, but we have shown that big jumps are possible. When our previous 15-year plan, Closing the Gaps, launched in 2000, fewer than 116,000 Texas students were completing postsecondary degrees and certificates each year.

Estimates have shown that 65 percent of all new jobs by the year 2020 will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school. Unfortunately, Texas currently lags behind many other states and developed countries in the percentage of young people with postsecondary education credentials and if we want to compete for these jobs, we need to close the gap. 

Higher education can make a difference in the lives of Texans, benefiting the individual as well as the community and state. To meet our statewide goals, we are working with our public school systems, community and technical colleges, universities, and education and industry leaders to create a seamless educational experience from kindergarten to the workforce. Our efforts include outreach to students who have some college credit but no credential, because it is never too early or too late to prepare our students for college and 21st century careers. Texas is up to the challenge of developing innovative programs to meet student needs.

The Texas Affordable Baccalaureate (TAB) program is a unique, low-cost degree designed to provide Texas students with the skills employers have identified as necessary for the 21st century, at the same time allowing students to accelerate time to completion and potentially save considerable money as they pursue higher education goals. TAB was launched at Texas A&M University-Commerce and South Texas College almost three years ago as the state’s first competency-based bachelor-level degree from a public institution. Later this year, two additional institutions will be awarded grants to launch TAB programs. Texas is planning for more in the near future. TAB addresses the four goals of the 60x30TX plan: attainment, completion, marketable skills, and managing student debt.

Texas recognizes that in addition to postsecondary attainment and completion, students must be able to identify and communicate the marketable skills learned within programs. Clearly, many students in Texas are graduating with marketable skills. Students, however, are not always aware of the value of these skills nor able to articulate them to employers. The marketable skills goal of the 60x30TX plan challenges institutions to think more explicitly about the programs they offer and the job skills that students learn within those programs. Marketable skills include interpersonal, cognitive, and applied skill areas acquired by students through curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular activities. In addition, creating more apprenticeships, paid internships, and other applied learning opportunities is critical to the future success of Texas and is a vital aspect of 60x30TX.

Cost also can be a factor for those contemplating higher education. One of the 60x30TX goals is to ensure that the educational debt of those graduating from Texas public colleges and universities is no more than 60 percent of their starting salaries. It will take a combination of tactics, including increased financial aid and reduced time-to-degree completion, to get there, but we can make higher education affordable for all Texans.

Under 60x30TX, Texas students will benefit because we can help them reach their full potential and Texas will benefit because an educated workforce will make the state far more competitive, improving the overall quality of life.

*See the full Center on Education and the Workforce report at


For additional examples of State Policy Leadership, click here