While school administrators work to clear the fog surrounding House Bill 5, the state's suite of educational changes, some are saying the bill could hurt the minority students’ chances to go to college.
A study by UT-Austin’s Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis found that HB 5 might lead school counselors to set minority students on a less rigorous degree plan designed for students who do not want to go to college. UT researchers say this is because school administrators often have low academic expectations for poor black students.
Victor Obaseki, a policy coordinator at the center, said this could cause the already small black communities at UT-Austin and Texas A&M University to shrink.
“This is all being implemented,” Obaseki said, adding, “What’s important to understand is that the choice of what graduation plan a student takes up with a school counselor and the student’s parent is absolutely crucial.”
Under HB 5, which will go into effect for the 2014-2015 school year, students can choose to graduate from one of three graduation plans.
Two of the graduation plans will allow students to earn the credits they need to get into most state universities and colleges, while one plan would not. Most universities require students to complete four years of math, science, social studies and English in order to gain admission.
Graduating under the distinguished plan – considered the college ready plan – or the foundation plus endorsement plan will guarantee students complete four years in the core courses.
The less rigorous plan Obaseki refers to is called the foundation plan. Lawmakers crafted this plan to give students who want to go into career and technical fields more flexibility to take more classes catered to their interests instead of taking college preparation classes.
Higher education stakeholders have grown increasingly worried about HB 5 as the months have gone by. Many claim that students need college ready skills to be successful in life even though they may not want to go to college. And the state has been working diligently to increase minority presence at its universities.
Dominic Chavez, spokesman for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, said minority recruitment is a goal in the state’s “Closing the Gaps by 2015 Plan,” which aims to bring the state’s higher education system up to par with states across the nation.
Key targets of the plan include increasing African American and Hispanic participation in higher education to 5.7 percent by 2015.
“We know the Hispanic population, for example, is becoming a greater share of the Texas population overall,” Chavez said. “So if Texas is going to compete not only nationally but globally we have to make sure that those two populations are both participating in and actually successfully completing college at high levels.”