About 60% of first-time Texas college students considered college-ready last year, according to state standards

Areeba Amer

Only 58% of first-time Texas college students were considered college-ready in fall 2018, according to a report presented at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board meeting Thursday.

According to the report, 85% of students entering universities and 37% of students entering two-year colleges were considered college-ready. To be considered college-ready, students must reach minimum scores on their SAT, ACT, AP tests and other college level equivalents, said Suzanne Morales-Vale, the board’s director of developmental and adult education. 

If students do not meet the minimum scores, Morales-Vale said they must take the Texas Success Initiative Assessment, which tests reading, writing and math skills. She said students who score too low in a subject area within the assessment may have to take an extra year or more of developmental courses in that subject before enrolling in a college-level class. 

Board commissioner Harrison Keller said developmental education makes students pay for courses that may not advance their degree progress. 

“You may have to take and pay for and take out debt for essentially high school courses before you are even able to earn credit (toward your degree) at all,” Keller said. 

Morales-Vale said four-year universities typically have a larger percentage of students who are college-ready because they have stricter admissions standards.

Morales-Vale said to improve college readiness, Texas institutions should implement co-requisite courses, which combine developmental education with the corresponding college-level class. For example, she said college-level math class may require a student to stay an additional hour to ask questions about the material and receive help. 

“After taking the developmental education courses semesters ago, now you’re in the college-level course,” Morales-Vale said. “Do you actually remember the material from previous courses? Those connections prevent students from getting behind.” 

Keller said while the co-requisite courses may be more expensive for the state to implement, it will be more cost-effective for students.

“It dramatically increases the amount the student is able to progress in their program,” Keller said. 

The 85th Texas Legislature passed a law requiring at least 25% of institutions to use co-requisite courses during developmental education by fall of 2018, and Morales-Vale said 75% of institutions should meet the benchmark by Fall 2020. She said in Fall 2018, institutions who met the benchmark had 26% more students considered college-ready than institutions who did not meet this benchmark. 

There were about 11,500 more first-time college students in fall 2018 that were considered college-ready compared to fall 2017, according to the board meeting report. Morales-Vale said the board should work to have all institutions providing corequisite courses by fall 2023.

Board member Welcome Wilson said this program is crucial to the success of 60x30TX, a program created by the board to ensure 60% of Texans have a degree by 2030, according to its website.

“We have to tackle this issue at this level … so I would encourage (the board) to push this program,” Wilson said.