The following ran in the Feb. 23, 2012, edition of The Houston Chronicle. Political Scientist Cal Jillson provided expertise for this story.
March 5, 2012
By Jeannie Kever
Thirty percent of American adults had at least a four-year degree last year, the highest level ever, with Hispanics making especially sharp gains, according to Census figures released Thursday.
But the optimism sparked by the new figures, coupled with new information reflecting higher earnings and lower unemployment rates for people with at least a four-year degree, is faltering in Texas.
The latest figures for Texas show 25.9 percent of adults with a bachelor's degree or higher in 2010, while almost 20 percent lacked a high school diploma. That compares with 12 percent of adults nationally who didn't graduate from high school.
"My sense is, Texas is really at a crossroads," said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University who devotes a chapter to education in his new book, Lone Star Tarnished: A Critical Look at Texas Politics and Public Policy. "I think it makes the future look fairly bleak."
He blames inadequate funding, at least in part, for the state's lackluster educational statistics.
"Politicians say you can't improve schools by throwing money at them," he said. "True enough. But if your schools are performing sadly according to national standards, and you are underfunding them, chances are you won't have a competitive workforce in the future."
Several reports released Thursday offered an updated look at the value of education - people with a bachelor's degree earned an average of almost $5,500 a month, while those who didn't complete high school earned only about $2,400 a month.
Other recent findings suggest that education has broader implications, too, as those who lack a college degree are less likely to marry....