(This article appeared in the January 12 Austin American-Statesman)
By Thomas K. Lindsay, director the Center for Higher Education at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

In higher education, Texas’ struggles are America’s struggles. At the same time, the 83rd Legislature can make Texas’ solutions America’s solutions.

Texas is well-placed to build on existing strengths relative to other states in the areas of tuition costs, student loan indebtedness and civic education requirements. Moreover, our legislators and universities have committed to increasing graduation rates, online learning opportunities and accountability in public higher education.

This good work already begun provides a springboard to meet the serious challenges ahead. Like every state, Texas is fighting a two-front war, endeavoring simultaneously to restore not only affordability but also education quality. Over the past quarter-century, tuitions nationally have spiked 440 percent, twice the rate of health care increases. Struggling to keep pace, students have taken on historic debt. Total student loan debt approaches $1 trillion dollars, exceeding credit card debt.

Added to the affordability crunch is the deeper crisis of poor student learning. “Academically Adrift,” the landmark national study published in 2011, finds that, after four years in college, 36 percent of students show “small or empirically non-existent” gains in foundational skills. Again, these dismal gains occurred after four years of college. This is a national tragedy. It constitutes the educational challenge of our time. . . .

READ MORE at http://www.statesman.com/news/news/opinion/texas-poised-to-become-national-model-for-higher-e/nTpqh/