Senate Higher Education met on April 21 to take up a number of bills. This report includes discussions concerning SB 1860 (Powell), SB 1193 (Hughes), SB 1227 (Taylor), SB 1826 (Springer), SB 1622 (Bettencourt) and SB 167 (Blanco). Part one of the hearing can be found here and part two can be found here.


This report is intended to give you an overview and highlight of the discussions on the various topics taken up. It is not a verbatim transcript of the discussions but is based upon what was audible or understandable to the observer and the desire to get details out as quickly as possible with few errors or omissions.


Vote Outs:

SB 1797 (West) (8-0)

SB 1521 (Zaffirini) (8-0)

SB 1860 (Powell) (9-0)

SB 810 (Kolkhorst) (9-0)

SB 1325 (Coleman) (9-0)


SB 1860 (Powell) – Relating to creating an electronic application system for state student financial assistance

  • Powell – Previous session established Texans may fill out TASFA electronically
  • COVID relief bills introduced changes to FAFSA that need to be accounted for
  • Bill would delay implementation of TASFA to 23-24 academic year to correlate federal changes with state law
  • Allowing THECB to correlate state and federal policy will reduce burden and redundancy issues
  • Does not affect access to TASFA program and bill will allow students to use virtual version of TASFA for 22-23 academic year

SB 1860 left pending


SB 1193 (Hughes) (CS) – Relating to providing information to undergraduate students regarding a fixed tuition rate provided by general academic teaching institutions.

  • Hughes – Informs students and their families about fixed and flat-rate tuition
  • Fixed tuition rate and fixed tuition price are different
  • Simply ensures disclosure of tuition information
  • CS clarifies language to apply bill to flat rate tuition as well


Dr. Thomas Lindsay, Texas Public Policy Foundation – For

  • Provides transparency about fixed rate tuition costs
  • Same kind of cost transparency we come to expect with a variety of other products and services
  • Would be given to transfers
  • Information would have to be provided on school’s website
  • Information would be widely available, creating better informed consumers of higher education

SB 1193 left pending

SB 1227 (Taylor) (CS) – Relating to the granting of undergraduate course credit at public institutions of higher education for certain scores on examinations administered through the College-Level Examination Program

  • Birdwell – Adopts uniform statewide credit-granting standard for CLEP program
  • Supports 60X30 state standard goals/plan
  • Minimum score for 50, high score 80; for granting credit for classes set by bill
  • Research shows those who score 50 or higher on CLEP improve outcomes in college
  • Uniform CLEP policy will be a major boon for adult learners, military enlisted, and women seeking education
  • Score will be able to be adjusted based on evidence
  • CS allows institutions to present evidence to request a higher score for credit to ensure student success


Suzanne McGurk, College Board – For

  • Awarding credit for CLEP is already in place for all public institutions in Texas is in place, but no standard score for credit acceptance
  • Test graded from 20-80, 50 being suggested
  • Scores in Texas currently range from 32-65
  • Standard will provide consistency and remove barriers
  • Research shows score of 50 is correlated with success in college; higher score is not necessary
  • Bill will level the playing field for CLEP success standard
  • West – Currently range of scores for awarding credit based on CLEP, do these institutions support a standard?
    • Not agreement yet, but not disagreement either
    • Added exception standard in CS to allow for institutions that have evidence to support it can require higher or lower scores to prove student success after admittance
  • West – The amendment only refers to a score of 50. Would the school have to change its policy? What is the difference between a university with a 32 score for awarding?
    • Most of the tests with those lower scores are for foreign languages
    • Institutions accepting those scores are using them to guide those students through their programs
  • West – Have students been successful?
    • Does not have data; college board does not research below 50
    • Individual institutions would have that data

SB 1227 left pending


SB 1826 (Springer) – Relating to the establishment of the Texas Competency-Based Education Grant Program for certain students enrolled in competency-based baccalaureate degree programs and to formula funding and dropped and repeated course restrictions for students enrolled in those degree programs at public institutions of higher education

  • Springer – Creates a new financial aid program
  • Applies to adult nontraditional students from low socioeconomic backgrounds to allow them to complete their educational needs
  • Aims to fill gap left by federal Pell grants, likely around $500 per student per year
  • Around 6,5000 students likely qualify now, would cost around $3 million
  • Set up to use federal stimulus or workforce funds
  • Largest institution now is Western Governor’s university with 14,000. Not all students eligible
  • 10 other schools using CBT program as well


Darrin Rankin, Western Governors University Texas – For

  • Need for greater access to higher education for all Texans
  • WGU Texas is a fully online, nonprofit, and accredited university
  • Operate under MOU; over 18,000 graduated since
  • All but 20 of Texas’ counties have students enrolled or alumni of the university’s 60+ BA degrees
  • Tuition is $7,500 per year, average time to graduation is 2.5 years
  • Flexible and personalized learning experiences are offered through the online, competency-based programs addressing critical workforce needs
  • Address competency in subjects rather than time in class
  • Bill would help students with college affordability
  • Bill would help better the situation of POC and first gen students
  • Helps labor shortage and economy
  • Springer – What is the average age of a WGU student?
    • 34; usually new families with small children


Jennifer Grube, Self – For

  • Student who used WGU’s coursework to increase level of education
  • Makes higher education for those who work full time and might struggle to afford
  • Program will bridge the gap for thousands of people to complete degree plans

SB  1826 left pending


SB 1622 (Bettencourt) (CS) – Relating to measures to support workforce development in the state, including the establishment of the Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative and additional employer workforce data reporting.

  • Bettencourt – Workforce in Texas is about 13 million employed; down 162,000 jobs during same period compared to last year
  • Current unemployment in TX is about 6.9%
  • 75% of employers report difficulty finding talent on open positions; need to address the mismatch
  • Codifies the tri-agency workforce initiative in law
  • Will give the agencies more bandwidth to help create recommendations for career development, reskilling, upskilling, and increases in technical education programs
  • Create publicly available dashboard to explore skills and careers for students
  • Increase information about certifications and programs available to match students to careers
  • CS clarifies language and expands definitions to include postsecondary degrees and credentials
  • Updates reports and language to emphasize best practices rather than punitive measures


Peter Beard, Greater Houston Partnership & Dallas Regional Chamber – For

  • Skills gap exists all over the state, and is a supply chain issue
  • Tri-agency initiative would greatly benefit closing this gap
  • The agencies are essential to all facets of the workforce pipeline
  • Longitudinal data changes and strengthening will ensure that the state can continue navigating changes in the workforce market, along with reskilling and upskilling needs
  • Bill creates strong foundation for future career development and improves ability of career counselors to help students determine what career will best suit them
  • Supports competitiveness and long-term growth for Texas


Todd Williams, COMMIT Partnership & Aim Hire Texas Coalition – For

  • Texas is growing very quickly, and wage growth is not keeping up
  • A quarter of people between 24 and 36 are earning a living wage
  • Want to ensure that Texans are participating in prosperity currently being enjoyed by non-native Texans; need continuing education support
  • Database for CTE programs to allow students and companies to examine needed jobs, skills required, and educational opportunities for those skills to provide incentive to close skills gaps in workforce


Mark Sherry, Austin Chamber of Commerce & Baylor Scott and White Health – For

  • Fast growing health care market in Texas
  • Educated workforce is key to sustaining growth and competitiveness
  • Passage of the bill will strengthen the workforce pipeline for collaboration
  • Creighton – What are the major openings in BSW’s jobs?
    • Mainly nursing


John Hryhorchuk, Texas 2036 – For

  • Too few people are meeting their potential
  • Too few businesses feel prepared for the future with their workforce
  • Pipeline is not optimized as best as it could be
  • Current tri-agency work is not legally defined – need to provide statute support and guidelines
  • Bill picks up with HB 3, completing pipeline that ended at high school in the status quo
  • Would help more Texans reach their full potential
  • Collecting data is helpful for schools and law makers to show what is working and what’s not
  • CS should significantly reduce the General Revenue costs currently outlined in the fiscal note
  • Significant business and philanthropic support and federal grants available to help cover costs
  • Creighton – Anything you would add to the bill?
    • Lot of great initiatives for upskilling and reskilling going right now
    • Important that we look at high unemployment and examine ways to maximize long-term benefits in human capital using federal COVID relief funds


Mike Moroney, Texas Association of Manufacturers – For

  • Codifying tri-agency initiative is good step for future work
  • Data collection and reporting is going to be beneficial for institutions and families to help understand high-demand programs and career opportunities
  • High unemployment rate and thousands of unfilled jobs shows the skills gap


Megan Herring, Texas Association of Business – For

  • Bill will help strengthen workforce and talent pipeline


Sen. Bettencourt closes

  • In the last month there has been another spike in unemployment
  • Mass people being laid off or unemployed but 75% of employers cannot find good replacements

SB 1622 left pending


SB 167 (Blanco) (CS) – Relating to a limitation on the amount of tuition charged by public institutions of higher education

  • Birdwell – College tuition is fastest growing price, even about health care
  • Deregulation of setting tuition rates has led to significant increase in tuition prices
  • Texas students are graduating with more debt than the national average
  • Bill would cap tuition increases
  • CS would impose a 5-year moratorium to give the legislature time to analyze cap amounts


Dr. Tom Lindsay, Texas Public Policy Foundation – For

  • Good to see the 5-year limitation on tuition increase
  • Impacts the “COVID Cohort”, students impacted by the pandemic
  • Reasonable to limit tuition increases for the time
  • Purdue University has frozen costs of tuition for 10 years – seen increasing retention and graduation rates – common sense and scalable policies
  • Learn to do more with less – universities should contribute their fair share to this effort


Dr. Vance Ginn, Texas Public Policy Foundation – For

  • High unemployment and high uncertainty among much of the population, while tuition rises
  • Higher education market is not free market
  • Dominated by government, inflated demand and a fixed supply curve
  • Limitations on tuition increases over time are good; since 1980, tuition has increased 170%, 3x faster than general inflation
  • More funding from government does not lower costs
  • Creighton – Why is the CPI the better benchmark?
    • Consumer Price Index is reflective of what taxpayers are paying in cost adjustment, not the cost in higher education
    • Remember overall costs for Texans, not costs driven by universities
  • Taylor – Thinks it is a good idea to put a pause and evaluate. Money needs to go everywhere. Covid is showing everyone where they can save and where they need to spend more
    • You do not get to see the effect on higher education unless there are pressures put on
  • Taylor – This is not something we should do, we have to do this
  • Springer – Why haven’t private universities done anything to be price leaders? They are a free market
    • Hopes that will start to happen more
    • Would not call it a free market, necessarily, because of state dynamics in place
  • Springer- are you saying that the state is setting rules for private schools to raise price?
    • Saying that its limiting options and is raising prices for everything else
  • Springer- Does not agree. With observing online school


Joseph Duron, Texas A&M University System – On

  • A&M implemented in 2014 a fixed and guaranteed tuition plan for all undergraduate students
  • Guaranteed fee and tuition plan provides clarity and incentive to graduate on time, reducing debt upon graduation
  • 69% of undergraduates, system-wide, are on a guaranteed tuition plan
  • Each school in the system has distinct needs and costs – changes can sometimes be necessary
  • Try to make it as transparent and affordable as possible
  • State and tuition are the only way they get money
  • When state squeezes funded, this puts pressure on tuition
  • Creighton – Are there any other recommendations for recognizing that student loan debt should not exceed 60% of first year salaries for graduates of Texas public institutions?
    • Educate students on the importance of graduating on time
    • Many students are on a guaranteed rate for 4 years
    • Debt burden has been on a downwards trend
  • Creighton- what is seen in the 40% that are not locked in?
    • Part time student, not locked in, or looking to transfer


Dan Tenney, University of North Texas System – On

  • Working to provide the resources and services needed by the students in the system
  • Tuition increases are specifically calculated and provided to students for input and commentary, leading to adjustments of fees
  • Last tuition increase in system was 2018, several schools had not increased for years before that
  • This bill removes critical tool for universities and could impact the education and services offered in the system – last resort tool, but complications arise from the moratorium
  • Creighton – Are there any other recommendations for recognizing that student loan debt should not exceed 60% of first year salaries for graduates of Texas public institutions?
    • Keenly focused on student debt
    • Students graduating from our institutions have the lowest debt in the state
    • Industry has lots of lessons to share
  • Springer – Do rebates factor into the cost calculations?
    • Yes, we also implement other incentives to graduate on time/early, including taking additional classes at no additional cost
    • But aim to give transparent up-front cost
  • Creighton – As things go back to in person, but demand for online is increasing, are there ways to scale efficiencies and costs downward as you increase revenue?
    • Covid has showed us where we can be more efficient, continuing to learn as they go
    • Anticipate doing hybrid mode going forward


Dr. Archie Holmes, University of Texas – On

  • UT system has goal to maintain low costs but high-quality education to ensure success of students
  • Tuition rates need to be predictable and maintain necessary projects
  • Other sources of revenue are considered first before tuition increases are considered
  • Consult students to ensure nothing is bad for them


Dr. John Hayek, Texas State University System – On

  • Increased enrollment by 20% over last 10 years, and over 21,000 degrees and credentials awarded annually
  • Long-range planning is conducted for tuition increases, including student input and financial analysis
  • Generally, 2-year increments see tuition increases, around 9-10 months before effective date
  • Account for inflation, cost at other universities, and economic factors to make a recommendation on tuition increases
  • Student advisory board is able to interact with Chancellors, Board members, and presidents regularly to communicate student opinions
  • Supporting college affordability is critical


Brandon Bradley, University Democrats and Self – For

  • Students at these universities have opinions deserve to be heard
  • Systems have been able to hold tuition constant without negatively impacting student outcomes
  • Texas would be leading the process of addressing the nationwide increase in tuition and student debt
  • Major competitive factor
  • Student enrollment and support should be priorities
  • Springer – Are you aware of any student services that are high cost and low impact?
    • UT spent $7.5 million on locker renovations, while at the same time health services were not funded enough during covid to really benefit students
    • Tuition freeze would probably incentivize universities to spend their funds more efficiently and target spending to student needs

SB 167 left pending