Student Regent Brian J. Haley
 

San Antonio Express News, February 17, 2007

Brian Haley and Tyson Voelkel
Special to the Express-News

We recently completed our tenure as the first student regents for the Texas A&M and University of Texas Systems. We were humbled to learn from and meet with Texans from all walks of life while we traveled to the dozens of campuses these two university systems have across our state.

As we reflect on our term, one thing is increasingly clear: Higher education is critical to Texas' future.

Post-World War II America recognized the importance of an educated citizenship. As our soldiers returned, they found a country creating opportunities for its masses to obtain a high quality, low cost education.

Unfortunately, over the past few decades we have seen a lack of commitment from policy-makers to continue these strategic investments in higher learning.

Spanning two centuries, higher education institutions in Texas have educated some of the brightest minds in our country. However, simply educating to compete at the state and national level is no longer the accurate measure of success. We must be educating to global standards.

Trust us; we know firsthand what the job market looks like. The reality is that we no longer compete for jobs only with our peers in neighboring states, but also against some of the brightest minds in the international community.

While we have learned to accept that America's jobs are no longer reserved for Americans, it is a rude awakening for many to learn that a growing number of those jobs are no longer even located in the United States. Search through any college's career service database and you'll discover that many job opportunities are located not in the next state but on a different continent, 10,000 miles away.

Here is the dilemma - policy-makers must balance scarce resources and myriad problems while meeting the needs of their constituents. Is an increased investment in higher education the most effective and efficient solution for a prosperous Texas work force and economy? We think so - and hope our state's decision-makers agree.

Recently, Gov. Rick Perry made large strides to ensuring Texas' future is a successful one. His higher education agenda is a remarkable launching pad to move this important debate to the forefront of the legislative session. We now call upon the Legislature to move quickly on legislation that increases support for higher education.

Just as generations past made difficult decisions to ensure that Texans today would enjoy great success, so too must we be willing to sacrifice to ensure that Texans tomorrow can continue to live in prosperity. There is no greater investment than one in education to see this hope become a reality.

While an Aggie and a Longhorn might disagree on the athletic field, nothing will pull us apart on our support for higher education in Texas. We hope the Legislature follows suit by pulling together to support higher education. If they do, then Texas' future is certain to be prosperous.

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Tyson Voelkel is a graduate student at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University in College Station.Brian Haley is a second year law student at The University of Texas at Austin.