Paredes: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board works with universities to improve student outcomes
I am responding to the Thursday editorial regarding the B-On-Time program and the sunset review of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). (See: "B-On-Time could be better managed")
The editorial suggests that the challenges facing the B-On-Time program are the result of administrative mismanagement. In fact, the program has been rendered less attractive to students by a number of factors that have nothing to do with administrative oversight, such as federal tax policy and rules governing the promotion of state loan programs. This point was made emphatically during the Sunset Commission hearing of the THECB by members of the commission.
Despite federal and other obstacles, the THECB has worked diligently to maximize the amount of aid disbursed to students through the B-On-Time program. Last year, the agency was able to allocate more B-On-Time funds to institutions than the minimum amount set by the Legislature. However, we recognize the agency must work with the federal government, the Texas Legislature and institutions to make the program more efficient and effective.
In a broader context, the editorial notes other findings in the full Sunset Review of the THECB, such as a "tense relationship with higher education institutions."
Over the last few years, the agency has been aggressive in identifying how higher education must improve for the benefit of students and the state's position in the global economy. We have published and disseminated data that some institutions find unflattering related to such issues as low graduation rates, cost inefficiencies and the general underperformance of developmental education programs. In addition, the board has recommended a series of policy changes that represent a significant departure from the status quo, such as partially funding institutions on student outcomes and closing low-performing academic programs. While these efforts may lead to some tension, it is the role of the THECB to press institutions to produce better results for students, ensure an appropriate alignment with the state's work force needs, and contain costs to keep higher education within reach of all Texans.
After more than a year of intense scrutiny, the Sunset Commission ultimately concluded that Texas continues to have a compelling need for the THECB. And it is important to note that the THECB and state institutions of higher education have worked effectively together to improve both student access to and success in higher education.
Finally, it is important to remember that the Sunset Review process is not designed to celebrate success, but rather identify areas for improvement and ongoing challenges. We gladly accepted a majority of the recommendations suggested by the report and have already implemented a few of them so we can improve our work and provide better outcomes for our students and taxpayers. We believe the result of this review will make the agency stronger and help sustain our partnership with institutions to close the education gaps and make Texas nationally and internationally competitive.
Raymund A. Paredes, Ph.D., has been commissioner of Texas Higher Education since July 2004.
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