A new study by the Austin nonprofit Texas Taxpayers and Research Association concluded that, “for the first time in 12 years, our job engine has been lagging the rest of the nation.” It's covered by Enrique Rangel, in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
The downturn in jobs is largely because of the decline of oil prices, a trend that started nearly two years ago. “The ‘Texas Miracle,’ as our state’s nation-leading economic engine has been dubbed, is currently on ice,” said Association President Dale Craymer, author of the report, according to the article.
This matters to community and technical college educators because a significant proportion of state revenue for all programs—especially education at all levels—comes from activity in the oil patch. Right now the slump does not appear to be as severe as the oil bust of the 1980s, since the Texas economy is now more diverse, but the budgetary prospect is generating concern with state officials.
Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus recently sent a letter to agencies setting the stage for tough decisions ahead. You will observe that his urgent priorities do not include higher education. Some key state programs are now in financial crisis.
By all accounts the Texas population is still growing at a very fast pace, leading the nation in new arrivals. Low housing prices and corporate relocations are important factors driving this trend. This is all great, but keep in mind that a population surge also means more children in schools, more traffic clogging our sagging transportation infrastructure, and more pressure upon the health care system, especially since Texas has chosen not to participate in Medicaid expansion (and its abundant federal funds) under the Affordable Care Act.
Then there is the law suit challenging the Texas school finance system, the result of which may mean staggering expenditures.
On the bright side, community colleges may experience a growth in enrollment, as former oil and gas employees decide to attend or return to college. Enrollments tend to go up in bad economic times.