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The 88th Legislature: A Texas-sized Investment in Higher Education

By June 6, 2023September 1st, 2023THECB News

We are at a pivotal moment for higher education in Texas. Thanks to historic investments from the 88th Legislature, Texans of all backgrounds have more opportunity to earn credentials of value in the Texas workforce of today and tomorrow. 

State lawmakers demonstrated their support for higher education, investing $5 billion over the next two years. These investments will make higher education more affordable for all Texans while connecting them to opportunities that improve their lives and ensure Texas’ economic success and competitiveness. 

It’s time for Texas higher education to celebrate the many wins achieved this session! Legislation from the 88th Legislature goes into effect September 1, 2023. These bills will impact higher education positively for generations to come and deliver a wide range of funding and programs to support students and institutions, moving us one step closer to meeting the state’s goals for Building a Talent Strong Texas.  


The state’s goal is for 60% of Texans ages 25-64 to receive a degree, certificate, or other postsecondary credential of value by 2030. Several bills passed during the 88th session will help more Texans pursue higher education opportunities they may not have been able to afford otherwise.  

  • In addition to being established as a permanent program, the Texas Leadership Scholars initiative was expanded to graduate students. This program not only provides a free ride to the state’s top colleges for students who demonstrate leadership qualities, it also provides students with peer and mentor cohorts to make the adjustment to college easier. (House Bill 1590)
  • Now, students qualified to graduate early under the Texas First Program can receive a scholarship to any college or university in the state. Previously, the program had been limited to research and emerging research institutions. (Senate Bill 2294) 
  • The Legislature established the Texas Opportunity High School Diploma program. Under this program, adult students will have the opportunity to earn a high school diploma through a public community college, while simultaneously pursuing a postsecondary degree or certificate. (Senate Bill 2139)
  • The Texas Armed Services Scholarship Program received additional funding, paving the way for more Texans to go to college and serve their country while receiving this scholarship. (Senate Bill 371)
  • The Legislature also created the Financial Aid for Swift Transfer (FAST) Scholarship program, which gives economically disadvantaged high school students access to dual credit courses at no charge. (House Bill 8)

Credentials of Value 

The credentials students earn must offer purpose in the economy, value in the labor market, and the opportunity for a good job and meaningful career. The state is aiming for 550,000 students to complete postsecondary credentials of value each year, with 95% of students graduating with low or no undergraduate student debt. State lawmakers passed a few bills that will enable students to leave higher education better off financially than they would be otherwise.    

  • The way we fund community colleges is boldly changing to an outcomes-based funding model. Texas community colleges will now receive funding based on metrics that include the number of credentials awarded, with an emphasis on credentials in high-demand industries, the number of students who earn at least 15 credit hours and transfer to a four-year university, and the number of high school students who earn at least 15 credits through academic and workforce dual credit programs. (House Bill 8)   
  • The biennial budget (House Bill 1) increased funding for many of our grant and loan repayment programs, including a new nursing scholarship established under Senate Bill 25 to encourage participation in high-demand fields, like health care, while ensuring graduates complete their education with no or manageable debt.


Texas higher education institutions play a vital role in generating knowledge through research and working with industry to translate innovations and discoveries. In Texas, we aim to increase research expenditures by $1 billion annually and award 7,500 research doctorates each year by 2030. The 88th Legislature passed bills that will support the state’s efforts in research, development, and innovation.

  • The National Research University Fund (NRUF) will be redesignated as the Texas University Fund (TUF) and will provide funding to Texas Tech University, Texas State University, University of Houston, and University of North Texas to bolster research efforts at these institutions. This work builds upon the historical investments the state has provided for The University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems’ research efforts.  (House Bill 1595/House Joint Resolution 3)
  • The Legislature created the Texas Space Commission to promote space, aeronautics, and aviation economic development in Texas. (House Bill 3447)   
  • State lawmakers also established the Texas Semiconductor Innovation Consortium, which will develop a statewide strategic plan to bolster semiconductor research, design, commercialization, and manufacturing. (House Bill 5174)   

The 88th legislative session provided an unparalleled opportunity for the future of our great state. Texas will continue to raise the bar for higher education and provide more Texans with opportunities to improve their lives and further their economic success.   

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