Sam Houston State University President Dana G. Hoyt held a roundtable discussion with faculty and staff to present institution-wide goals, anticipated to be reached by 2030.
Hoyt began the meeting with a greeting and explaining the agenda to the many attendees present.
Student debt was one of the main issues on the agenda. The goal for this is that by 2030, undergraduate student loan debt will not exceed 60 percent of first-year wage for Texas graduates of public institutions. One of the suggested strategies for reaching this goal is to better advise students and parents on financial aid options and impacts before and during their college careers, as well as other ways to decrease student debt.
“I think that this goal would be beneficial,” Heather Thielemann, vice president of enrollment said. “We do very well at Sam. I mean, you’re going to have debt. Not everybody’s going to get all financial aid, but to do it in a smarter way and explain it upfront, they’re going to see that this is what I am going to be paying if I get this type of job. I actually think it’s a good goal and we’re going to be fine. Other institutions might struggle a little bit.”
She later introduced the first discussion topic, “educational attainment” by announcing that Texas’ most educated age group is currently 65 years and up and that the least educated age group in Texas ranges from 25 to 35 years old. The goal for this topic is that by 2030, at least 60 percent of Texans between the ages of 25 and 34 will have a postsecondary credential or degree.
A suggested strategy to achieve this goal included employing high-impact practices, which is providing ways to teach life skills and provide opportunities for experience within future career field for students.
“Not all institutions rose to this occasion, but if you look at Sam Houston, we did extremely well,” Provost Jaimie Herbert said. “Looking at our graduation rates compared to others, I feel like this is almost a soft toss to us. I read this as the coordinating board wants other institutions to be more like Sam Houston. That’s a good feeling, but it also means other institutions are going to step up.”
Following this topic, a discussion sparked about the second subject: completion. The goal of this topic is that by 2030, at least 550,000 students in that year will complete a degree in Texas. Hoyt said Texas is considering providing free education at junior colleges and it was debated as to how this would affect the population at four-year universities.
“Tennessee does this and funds two-year schools,” Hoyt said. “Texas’s funds come from taxes, so it’s a very different funding model than other states.”
The possible strategies of this topic contained ways to make achieving a degree more accessible and accommodating to students from a variety of different backgrounds.
“I’m not really worried about the economic driver when you look at the cost of attendance at a community college,” Herbert said. “If a student wants to go to a four-year university and gets accepted, they are going to go to a four-year school.”
The next discussion topic was marketable skills. The goal accompanying this topic is that by 2030, all Texas graduates will have participated in programs with marketable skills. Marketable skills refers to desirable experience that will assist graduates in job-finding.
“Marketable skills and curriculum completions are equally important,” Herbert said. “There’s a two-prong effort in higher education. One is to deliver the content-specific curriculum, but what we do so well at Sam Houston is we incorporate these other marketable skills. Marketable skills is really the term that our legislature uses—they’re life skills. It’s communication, it’s critical thinking and we infuse that throughout our curriculum. In my mind, true higher education is the combination of those two.”
The attendants of this roundtable meeting voiced their opinions, concerns and were able to ask questions. Hoyt listened and answered all questions.
“I really appreciate the faculty and staff that showed up, because I thought they had great thoughts,” Hoyt said. “I do think that this plan, the coordinating board developed, aligns really well with what Sam Houston already does. I’m not sure it’s a game-changer for us because we are already doing that. I think we do an excellent job on preparing students for future employment. I think what we can improve on is helping students understand what they’ve learned to communicate that to those employers.”