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Higher Ed Commissioner Says Texas Universities May Be Breaking State Law

File Photo | Joey Palacios | Texas Public Radio
The higher education coordinating board recognized Alamo Colleges for creating degree-specific transfer advising guides.

A feel-good recognition during a state board meeting Thursday turned into a surprise for Texas Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes when a college administrator told the board course transfer issues are common place, even when students follow state transfer plans called fields of study.“(A) majority of the universities will accept portions of the field of study, but the likelihood that the university’s going to accept field of study in its totality is slim to none,” said Angela Guadian-Mendez, director of student completion for the Alamo Colleges District.

Guadian-Mendez has been working to create student transfer guides for the San Antonio community college district for the past two years in partnership with Austin Community College and several area universities.

While fields of study are generic course descriptions intended to be accepted at all public colleges and universities in Texas, Alamo Colleges’ transfer guides are individually tailored to specific degrees at specific universities.

The community college systems were at the Higher Education Coordinating Board meeting Thursday to be recognized for the guides, which are designed to prevent students from wasting time and money on courses that don’t count towards a degree.

“I’m startled to hear what you said. I don’t doubt the truth of that. But when you say that the likelihood that a university will accept all the courses in a field of study are slim to none, that’s very troubling,” Paredes told Guadian-Mendez. “We have laws in the state that are supposed to govern what institutions do about fields of study. Those laws have to be honored until they’re changed.”

Paredes said he wanted more information about the transfer decisions of university departments so he could follow up. At issue may be whether institutions count courses towards a degree, or simply allow the course to transfer as an elective or unnecessary hours.

Texas Men Lag Behind

The coordinating board also discussed male degree completion rates Thursday, as the state strives to complete its 60x30 goals. The goals’ name comes from its overarching aim: for 60 percent of Texans ages 25 to 34 to have a college degree or post-secondary certification by 2030.

The number of men earning college degrees and certificates in Texas continues to lag behind the number of women, according to state data. In 2016, 42 percent of the degrees were earned by men compared to 58 percent earned by women.

MORE | Educational outcomes based on gender

There’s a gap across all race and ethnicities, but the gap is widest for black and Latino men. The number of Latina women who earned degrees and certificates in 2016 outpaced the number of white men.

Jerel Booker, assistant commissioner for college readiness and success, told the board that the number of men earning degrees wasn’t declining, but the number of women earning degrees is increasing at a faster pace.

“There’s a lot of reasons (men are) not actually continuing. They’re doing workforce certificates, which might not be counted in some of the things we’re collecting. But some of its internal. They have help available, but they’re not seeking it,” Booker said.

State officials said more girls are born in Texas than men, but starting in eighth grade, male achievement starts dropping below female achievement.

“I think something ... we often miss is the importance of having mentors at the middle school level that are drivers for young people, because I know I had that in my life, and I insist that my two sons have that in their lives, because I do think it’s a complex journey for males of color in the college setting,” said Ricky Raven, a board member from the Houston area.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille

Camille Phillips can be reached at camille@tpr.org, on Instagram at camille.m.phillips and on Twitter at @cmpcamille. TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.