Valenzuela: Clock ticking to ensure race gap is closed for millennials


There is a gap in the educational achievement of young Texans in which Hispanic and African-American students continue to lag behind their white counterparts.

The educational disparity often translates into a wage and opportunity divide, according to “Closing the Race Gap: Texas,” a new report by Young Invincibles, a nonpartisan, nonprofit that advocates for adults 18 to 34 years old. And while we’ve made some educational gains in the past 15 years, much remains to be done so Texas can remain economically competitive.

In five years, very few jobs will be available for those with only a high school degree or less, researchers said in the report.

“By the year 2020, up to 65 percent of jobs will require some kind of post-secondary education,” said José Eduardo Sánchez, who co-authored the report with Rebecca Fowler. “And 72 percent of our students will not have that education. … We have to look at how this is going to affect our job market.”

This brings a renewed urgency on the part of schools, lawmakers and businesses to make sure all millennials have access to education and job opportunities.

But government cuts to education and legislative roadblocks make that increasingly harder. (More than 600 districts sued the state in 2011 after the legislature cut $5.4 billion in school funding.)

Among adults ages 25 to 64 in Texas, 60.7 percent of Asian-Americans have a college degree, as well as 44.9 percent of whites, 29.2 percent of blacks and only 17.7 percent of Hispanics, according to 2013 census data. In Travis County, 51.2 percent of adults have at least an associate degree; 25.4 percent of Travis County Hispanics 25 and older hold degrees.

Some of the Young Invincibles proposals for increasing the number of Hispanics with college degrees include improving the academic achievement of high school students, offering more Advanced Placement courses, expanding counseling and support for low income families in navigating the university system, and improving access to college financial aid.

Another measure that has increased the number of high school graduates who go on to college and receive a degree is to expand early-college high school programs, Sánchez said. High school students in such programs can take free dual-credit courses, saving them time and money.

Only 1 percent of Texas high schools offer early-college programs, he said. One of those schools, Mission High School in El Paso, has a graduation rate of 100 percent. All Mission High graduates enroll in college with a college retention rate of 80 percent.

“We would like to see this model expanded to other areas. … It would greatly benefit Hispanics and blacks,” Sánchez said.



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