Funding for the TEXAS grant financial aid program for students is never adequate to cover all those who wish to attend college but can't afford it. Consequently, Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes has proposed a "priority" model, which would award grants to students who have already demonstrated potential for success, in the form of several factors, including high school rank, test scores, and participation in dual credit and Advanced Placement programs.
The issue was discussed in an interim hearing of the Senate Committee on Higher Education on April 26. The panel is chaired by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo).
It's an important question, given the demographic outlook for the future of Texas. During the hearing, the foremost expert on such trends, Steve Murdock of Rice University stated that Texas population growth has been phenomenal, with 60 percent of all growth among "non-Anglos." Blacks and Latinos lag whites in both education and income. By 2040, about 33 percent of the state's population will be white and up to 59 percent will be Latino. Dr. Murdock projected that the rising numbers of impoverished children will increase higher education financial needs by 200 percent in 30 years. He said that if "we do nothing," by 2040, average household income will drop by $6,500, 30 percent of residents will not have a high school diploma, and prison population will total 341,000 and cost Texas $5 billion annually. Responding to senators' questions, Dr. Murdock said the higher education criteria should aid the "most needy first."
Dr. Paredes defended the "priority" model, stating that it will neither diminish the number of minority students nor pit students from poorer schools with those from wealthier schools. Dr. Paredes stated that students will compete with their peers, and the SAT is only one of the factors in the model. The idea is that students who have demonstrated success already have a better chance of completing courses once they get into college. Assuming limited resources, it's the best way to distribute student aid funds, the commissioner said.