The University of Houston-Victoria has developed several learning outcomes to help with a state goal of producing more college graduates with marketable skills by the year 2030.
Adopted in 2015, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board 60x30 plan calls for 60 percent of Texans ages 25-34 to have a postsecondary degree or credential by 2030. To reach the goal, at least 550,000 students in the year 2030 will need to have completed a certificate, associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree.
The strategic 60x30 plan was designed to help Texas remain competitive and prosperous. James Higgins, UHV Faculty Senate president and an assistant professor of history, said Texas and other Southern states are lowest in the country in literacy, high school graduation, college entrance and college completion.
“The economic consequences of it reverberates through the South,” he said. “The changing economy is technology orientated, and manufacturing jobs are not being brought back to the U.S. No one is promised to have a middle-class lifestyle with just a high school education.”
A key objective in the state plan is to teach students marketable skills, so they can thrive in the workforce.
“The plan was developed in part because employers don’t feel like students across the country are coming to work with the ability to function as a team and communicate properly,” said Jay Lambert, UHV vice president for enrollment management and student affairs. “Helping students develop and articulate the skills and competencies necessary to be successful in the workforce is one of the most important things that we do. This isn’t something that is new, but it will take on a much stronger focus in the future.”
UHV students will be taught a common set of learning outcomes: communication, teamwork, decision making, problem solving, influence, and the ability to plan, organize and prioritize work. Michael Wilkinson, UHV Student Life & Services director, said students who engage in co-curricular activities, either by participating in or facilitating these programs, will be exposed to at least two of the core learning outcomes.
“We will assess the effectiveness of each of our individual programs with the core learning outcomes being the main focus when determining if an event was successful or not,” he said. “Research shows that college students at four-year universities involved in campus programming obtain transferable skills that are reflective of what global employers are looking for when hiring new graduates. We don’t want anybody to walk away from UHV as a graduate and not be prepared for his or her first job.”
At UHV’s third annual ROAR Leadership Conference on Nov. 5, UHV students will be introduced to a new initiative that uses the 60x30 plan as its framework, Wilkinson said. The initiative is a leadership certification program in which students will be able to demonstrate their skills in the areas of teamwork, communication, problem solving and social responsibility. Upon completion of their certification, students will receive various forms of recognition.
“This program will allow students to demonstrate the marketable skills they gained during their collegiate career in a tangible way and will ultimately provide them with key talking points in that first professional job interview,” Wilkinson said.
Higgins said usually one of the first questions students ask him is what can they do with their degree.
“We want to focus within majors on how students can take the skills they learn and apply them,” he said. “We want students to get a foot in the door. Then the students can show an employer how they can benefit the company, such as writing, public speaking and communication skills.”
The Texas 60x30 plan is meant to be a shared vision of excellence for higher education in Texas. It was developed with input from school administrators, higher education leaders, community leaders, private industry, elected officials and others.
About 38 percent of Texans ages 25 to 34 have a postsecondary degree or credential. Higgins said most people he’s talked with in the Texas Association of Faculty Senates think getting that figure up to 60 percent in 14 years isn’t realistic.
“But, high goals and high bars tend to increase performance,” Higgins said. “You can’t force a generational change in 14 years, but you can shoot for it and get close to it. I don’t know that anyone who set out to do this thought 60 percent was attainable by 2030, but we needed something to shoot for.”
Another goal of the plan is to boost the educational attainment of underrepresented populations, such as Hispanic and African American students. The plans also address student debt. By 2030, undergraduate student loan debt should not exceed 60 percent of first-year wages for graduates of Texas public institutions.
UHV often is praised for its affordability and accessibility, UHV President Vic Morgan said. To further get the word out about those elements, UHV is taking part in the Opportunities for All national campaign. Launched by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities as a branding initiative, the campaign aims to raise awareness and understanding of the shared values of state colleges and universities.
“UHV opens up a world, especially to underrepresented students,” Morgan said. “It allows them to realistically look at the world and get the tools necessary to succeed in it. This is the best thing a university can do, preparing students to make their mark on the world and set a course for their lives.”