When I served as president of Sul Ross, I saw how easy it was for students to rack up debt as
they navigated college expenses, both expected and unexpected. I was continually reminded that higher education leaders, from campuses to Capitols, have a duty to keep that debt low.
For inspiration in tackling student debt, Texans can look at our neighbor to the west, New
I laid out the problem and potential solutions recently in the Houston Chronicle.
More than half of Texas students graduate from public colleges and universities with an
average of nearly $27,000 in debt. Unfortunately, some solutions have become politicized. But others don’t need to be.
On college campuses, keeping debt down can start with commonsense policies that reduce
needless expenses. At Sul Ros, I scrapped a draconian policy of trashing clothes left overnight in dryers, forcing families to pay to replace them.
Keeping debt low continues by helping students graduate faster so they owe less. Many schools have maintained hybrid learning models post-COVID. This helps students who work full-time or care for family members attend more classes and earn degrees more quickly.
Last year, Texas updated its Higher Education plan to call for 95 percent of students to graduate with manageable or no debt. That’s a great goal. But the state’s website still tells students that grant “funding is limited… all eligible students may not receive funding.”
It’s time to change that.
College students who live in New Mexico, a quick drive from my far Alpine home, already
pursue college and career training tuition-free thanks to the New Mexico Opportunity
Scholarships. Those scholarships were launched with a $75 million investment last year and
have gone to about 45,000 students so far.
Texas still has unspent money from our record $33 billion budget surplus. It’s time to use that
funding and take the cue from New Mexico so college remains a pathway to a better life — not a gateway to financial debt.