Building a College Going Culture in Northeast Texas

Nursing students signs 60x30NETX banner at Texarkana College (Photo by Erin Rogers | Txk Today)
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The 60x30TX program was released in 2015 by the State of Texas as a plan to emphasize the significance of future generations attaining a certificate or degree to become an asset for the workforce.

“Without bold action, Texas faces a future of diminished incomes, opportunities, and resources,” as stated in the executive summary of the plan.

The initiative was established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and is endorsed by Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Workforce Commission Chairman, Andres Alcantar.

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By the year 2030, 60% of Texans ages 25-34 must have a college credential in order for Texas to have the trained workers it needs to maintain a flourishing economy. According to Greg Abbott, Texas is the nation’s leader in job creation and has the 10th largest economy in the world.

The initiative also wants at least 555,000 students by 2030 to complete a certificate, associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s from a higher education institution, and not to just receive an education but to learn marketable skills from those programs.

The idea is that this program will build a platform for graduates of Texas public institutions to earn higher incomes and that their student loan debts will not exceed 60 percent of first-year wages.

Texas is becoming more involved in a global economy that depends on competent and skilled workers. The state is improving college completions for students who usually haven’t earned some form of higher education in large numbers; however, the state has not improved enough in scope to keep up with the changes in demographics.

The state of Texas has commenced 60x30TX as an initiative to raise awareness of the economic issue and the low percentage of residents that have received some form of higher education.

The state average for residents with any form of higher education is around 33-40%, but more unsettling is the dramatically lower average in Texarkana, only between 15-18%.

Too many residents in Texas, especially in Texarkana and northeast Texas, have never been exposed to college.

Chairman Alcantar has collaborated with Northeast Texas Community College, Paris Junior College, and Texarkana College to lead the 60x30TX initiative in the northeast region of the state.

Texarkana College’s Traci Pitman, Suzy Irwin, and President James Henry Russell, produced a viral video to inform the public regarding the issue. The video was picked up and shared by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The video featured Texarkana Independent School DIstrict 6th graders. These children were targeted because they will be the first group to be 25 years of age in 2030.

Mary Ellen Young, Dean of Liberal and Performing Arts, emphasized, “They are the group we are trying to help first. We have to let them know that their future depends on it. We quickly learned through community outreach that we need to start sooner than high school level students. We are trying to create a college going culture”

Suzy Irwin, Director of Institutional Advancement and Public Relations, explained the basis of the 60x30TX initiative and how Texarkana College is taking the lead in the Texarkana region.

“ We are mostly trying to raise awareness of the initiative by asking businesses to support the cause by taking photos with our 60×30 NETX banners and website. I saw two moms bring their children who are students here to TC and wait for them while they took their exams. I asked them to sign our banner but the mothers replied, ‘ we aren’t going here.’”

Suzy told them that their children are relying on their support for their education and they are an integral part of earning their children earning a degree.

“We have so many first generation college students, but once the first person has broken that barrier, it makes it easier for the following generations to attend school. It becomes not “if,” but “when.”

Non-traditional students are able to obtain marketable skills and become role models in the community. As of 2016, traditional students ages 18-24 make up about 46% of the student population, while nontraditional students ages 25 and older account for a shocking 54%.

Dean Young expounded on “Stackable Credentials” that build upon one another. “Now a single mom with 2 kids can take steps rather than become overwhelmed with the big picture.” Many of the programs are structured so students can build upon those courses and later earn a bachelor’s degree.

Texarkana College’s most popular program is General Studies. This is where students can come to acquire an associate’s degree and transfer to a four year university. Other students attend TC to obtain a Level 1 certificate in programs such as welding, auto mechanics, construction, computer sciences, nursing, EMT, paramedic, fire training, and medical coding, to name just a few.

The college has three learning sites: Texarkana, New Boston, and Paris. The New Boston campus is paralleled with TexAmericas and offers on-site training for programs like diesel technology. These skill based programs provide hands on training so students are able to work quicker than ever.

Recently, TC has fine tuned their health sciences, primarily the EMT and Paramedic programs. Dean of Health Sciences, Courtney Shoalmire, explains, “ The EMT program used to be one semester long and to help expedite the process and increase graduation rates we worked with lifenet to develop the academy. This help increases EMTs available for lifenet and lifenet receives the security knowing the students have the knowledge necessary to complete the job.”

Texarkana College is the largest trainer for Lifenet. Students receive clinical experience with lifenet and when they graduate, they’re licensed in both Texas and Arkansas.

They have training programs with other businesses such as Texarkana Emergency Center, where Dr. Matt Young is the medical director and professional advisor for the EMT/Paramedic programs at Texarkana College. He conveyed, “It is very important and vital for High School graduates to further their education in today’s times. With that being said in regards to the EMT program , the people that choose to further their studies in this field and profession have a passion to help their fellow men and women. It is that passion that allows TC to have an outstanding program for this subset of students.”

Texarkana College recently partnered with McLarty Ford for a $141,231 job training grant.The partnership between McLarty Ford and Texarkana College on this Skills Development Fund grant will benefit both the local community and its workforce,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez. “Our labor force is among the most talented and skilled in the world, and we continue to seek and implement strategies to improve the skills of Texas workers.”

Texarkana College continues to improve their training programs so they can meet the needs of not only the state, but right here in the Texarkana community. The 60x30TX initiative is a 13 year process and Texarkana College wants to be leader in the community for this program.

For more information on 60x30NETX, visit: http://www.60x30NETX.com

Chairman Alcantar signs check for Texarkana College
(Photo by Erin Rogers | Txk Today)
(photo by Erin Rogers | Txk Today)
(Photo by Erin Rogers | Txk Today )
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