Subject of declining registrations at the Texas Tribune event

June 29 – Factors behind declining enrollment in higher education, who is being left behind and what can be done about it will be discussed at the big student quit, scheduled for Thursday noon in the hall Zant community at Odessa College.

The Texas Tribune event will take place on the second floor of the Saulsbury Campus Center. The panel will include Odessa College President Gregory Williams; University of Texas Permian Basin Chair Sandra Woodley and Ector County ISD Superintendent Scott Muri.

The conversation, which will be live and virtual, will be moderated by Texas Tribune CEO and co-founder Evan Smith.

Smith said Wednesday that the discussion will cover, in part, what has happened to college culture.

“We picked a place where we have great leaders, educators, and two institutions that really stand up for themselves. But we have a conversation that’s really not just about this area or the schools, but more about the institution of education. higher and on the state of Texas,” Smith said.

“It’s really about college culture. If I were to define in one sentence what this event is going to be, that’s what happened to college culture here in year three of the pandemic,” said he added.

Texas has some challenges, he said.

“The first is that we don’t get a lot of college degrees. If you look at the eighth grade cohort numbers released by the Higher Education Coordinating Council, you’re tracking children from eighth grade onwards in schools public schools in Texas; you follow them through high school and then six years. Only about one in five graduates, whether it’s a four-year degree, an associate’s degree, a community college or even a work certificate. It’s only about one in five, so that’s already a challenge we had before the pandemic,” Smith said.

“But during the pandemic we saw that there were some huge icebergs in the way of children who were planning to go to school; the public health emergency being the most important of these. The corresponding economic slowdown being secondary.

“The fact is that even the kids who have managed to stay economically able to go to college and have been able to stay healthy and their family members stay healthy…have found each other for most of the past two years in at least hybrid classes, if not fully online…”, he added.

This experience was very different from most students before this. Many students found that they did not enjoy the virtual environment, did not get anything out of it, and decided to “bail out”.

“Overall in the state, community college enrollment is down double digits. I think the last number I saw was 13 percent.

“Now four years may not be down, but since community college represents such a high percentage of all higher education enrollment in Texas, it was 50% pre-pandemic or a little higher. , the overall numbers are lower. Many this is of course a community college, but look, these are the future workers of the state; these are the future voters of the state; these are the future leaders of the state of ‘some way. They’re going to take over from all of us and they’re going to be running this place in a minute, so it doesn’t matter what happens to these kids,” he added.

In the Permian Basin, students can weigh going to college and getting into debt compared to working in the oilfield and making a lot of money.

“…It’s been great for us to deal with all of the different pressures and challenges that children face in making the decision to enroll or not, and of course, as you know, there’s been a pre-pandemic conversation where some people were saying the good is higher education is even worth it? Why do we need it? So we’re going to talk about all of that. It’s really as much about college culture, as I see it. I said at the beginning, in Year 3. Where are we? What challenges do we have? What opportunities do we have? What are the problems we are trying to solve? What are the solutions that are on the table?’ .

Smith said he picked the panel and had known Woodley and Williams for years.

“I think they are really interesting leaders. Odessa College is nationally recognized as a successful leader. It is nationally recognized as a successful leader. Among the regional campuses of large systems, the ‘UTPB is really interesting I think she (Woodley) has a great and interesting experience having been in another state running institutions in another state and she came here and she did I think a job which is very well regarded in the state,” Smith said.

“I asked the superintendent to join because he’s at the beginning of the funnel. The kids in the public school districts are the ones who are ultimately going to make that decision, so I’m really interested to hear what he has. to say about the conversation inside the schools, inside the district and if it’s different now than it was three years ago,” he added.

Jessica C. Bell