A bill proposing a pilot program to help graduating SHSU correctional officers pay their student loans is currently in the works in the Texas House of Representatives.
Doug Dretke, Director of the Correctional Management Institute of Texas, said the bill (HB 518) was proposed by State Representative Lois Kolkhorst.
He said its purpose is to provide an incentive for correctional officers with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to complete their college education supporting their efforts to enhance their capabilities as a corrections professional.
“I filed HB 518 to solve two separate but very related problems,” said Kolkhorst. “There is a need for professional career-minded correctional officers within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and there is a need among many Sam Houston State University students for financial aid while they are seeking an education.”
If passed, the funding for the bill will be included in the state budget.
Brian Olsen, who is with the local correctional employees council, will be traveling to Austin on Thursday to testify in favor of this proposed bill.
“We think that it’s a visionary bill that is thinking outside the box to try and professionalize this agency,” said Olsen.
The reasoning behind his support of the bill, he said, was that the correctional officers are very low paid and this bill will help them afford what it costs to achieve a degree.
This bill will open up more opportunities for these working students and it will benefit the TDCJ because more of its employees will have degrees, helping them move up the ladder within the agency.
Many of these correctional officer students plan to stay with the TDCJ upon graduation, with the hopes of becoming a ranking officer, sergeant lieutenant, captain and possibly to a warden.
“When you educate your people, you help your state,” said Olsen. “Educating the people saves the state money and is good for Texas.”