AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott announced $123.3 million in additional education funding Monday to help bolster public and higher education as institutions and students continue to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
“In addition to Texas’ commitment to student success programs, this funding will help ensure that students of all ages will not only enter into a higher education program, but they will leave as quickly as possible with a high-value degree or credential,” Abbott said in a news release.
The money stems from federal coronavirus relief aid and is the final allocation of the Governor's Emergency Education Relief funds. This distribution brings the total to more than $362 million in GEER funding for higher education through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and $67.5 million for public education since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the release said.
The largest portion of the package includes $30.3 million for student success initiatives to improve student enrollment, retention and credential completion, including strengthening student advising.
John Fitzpatrick, executive director of Educate Texas, said the state has seen a significant decrease in the number of students who enroll in higher education following high school. This money will target those students to give support in continuing their education.
A separate allocation of $25 million will support Texas nurses through loan repayment, financial aid and accelerated innovation in nursing education. Another $17.5 million is dedicated to expanding workforce-aligned, short-term credentials for high-need areas including digital skills, data analytics, and programs for front-line health care workers.
Fitzpatrick said while there was a dip in the number of conversions prior to the pandemic, he believes it was exacerbated by the pandemic as families — particularly low income families — needed their student to enter the workforce immediately to help support their family rather than enter college or trade school.
“I think these investments and knowledge will really help with that,” Fitzpatrick said. “[The funding] is targeted both to students that need it and to high skill high wage industries like nursing and health care and IT.”
Other funding includes $20 million for the Supplemental Special Education Services program which provides money directly to families and connects eligible students with severe cognitive disabilities to additional support services.
Another $10 million will expand high quality charter school availability; $12.5 million will be used to continue strategic investments in student financial aid programs; $5 million will support the agency’s ongoing work to modernize the state’s educational and workforce data infrastructure and enhance cybersecurity; and $3 million is dedicated to Commercial Driver License training and repayment to improve transportation and the supply chain.
“Investing in education is key to improving educational outcomes and equitable access for all students to acquire the skills that power a better workforce for our economy,” Fitzpatrick said. “Because of our rich experience and our proven commitment to enhancing education across the state we are proud that Educate Texas is considered a trusted change agent to the policymakers who are making critical decisions for the students in Texas.”