Dec. 14, 2022, Austin – At a pivotal moment for higher education, Texas is leading the way. Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Harrison Keller called on leaders across the state in higher education, industry, philanthropy, and government to seize that momentum in his annual State of Higher Education address.
In front of nearly 300 attendees at the 2022 Texas Higher Education Leadership Conference, hosted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Commissioner Keller outlined the three challenges facing Texas higher education today:
- Educational attainment: The pandemic accelerated changes in how we work, the kinds of jobs available, and the types of credentials, degrees, and certificates required to fill those jobs.
- Workforce education: The Texas economy is changing at an unprecedented pace, in directions that require more education beyond high school diplomas, from short-term workforce credentials to graduate degrees.
- Research and development: Competitiveness in every industry, the strength of the state and national economies, and even national security increasingly depend on how well we compete at the frontiers of knowledge and discovery.
“The heart of the matter is that expectations for higher education have changed, faster than anyone expected,” said Commissioner Keller. “Now, there is a significant disconnect between the scale of our needs in each of these areas versus what our higher education institutions and policies were designed to do.”
Despite challenges brought on by the pandemic, Commissioner Keller said the foundation for success is in place because of the nearly $360 million in Governor’s Emergency Education Relief funds dedicated to higher education since 2020 and the adoption of the state’s new strategic plan for higher education, Building a Talent Strong Texas.
With the plan’s three core goals in mind – to improve educational attainment, increase production of credentials of value, and bolster research and development – Commissioner Keller challenged attendees to commit to advancing these goals equitably and at scale.
“We can’t get there by tinkering around the margins and doing just a little more of what we’ve already been doing,” he said. “We have to achieve impact at scale – impact as big as Texas.”
The conference also included a keynote address from U.S. Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal, who thanked those in attendance for making Texas a “state to watch” in higher education. Kvaal applauded Texas for leading the way in its data modernization efforts, development of credentials of value, and focus on inclusivity.
Panel discussions and breakout sessions included conversations on credentials of value, the Commission on Community College Finance and its report, higher education and the 88th Texas Legislative Session, and philanthropy in higher education, among many other topics.