Thank you [THECB] Chairman [Fred] Heldenfels.
When it comes to higher education in Texas, we all may have differences in approach but our goal itself should always remain clear.
Put simply, anyone who has the motivation and is willing to put in the hard work should be able to earn a college degree in the State of Texas.
This is an essential component of Texas' future, a future I believe will be defined by the level of our commitment to preparing our young people for the challenges of a high-tech world.
Can Texas be home to the next Silicon Valley?
I believe it can.
I believe we have already headed down that path by keeping taxes, regulation and lawsuits limited, by prioritizing accountable schools, and by bringing world-class researchers to Texas, through strategic investments from the Emerging Technology Fund and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
Texans across our state are already involved in ground-breaking research that affects the very lives of us all.
The advances we have made in this direction didn't happen by accident, they were the result of years of hard work by many Texas leaders in developing a vision and focusing on the goal.
Continuing our efforts in that direction, however, will require the teamwork and dedication of professors, researchers, administrators, legislators, along with the private sector, all working together to prepare Texas for the future.
Maintaining our dedication to transparency and accountability is critical to the success of that effort, and I commend the Higher Education Coordinating Board for taking this latest step with the publication of this almanac, which makes it easier for Texans to assess the value they are getting for their hard-earned tax dollars.
In Texas, we have an ongoing and expanding commitment to transparency in all state agencies.
Transparency isn't just about making information available, it's about keeping it accessible and making it easier to understand.
It informs taxpayers, and helps consumers - in this case, students and their families - who need to make the right choices about where they will go to college.
Transparency also increases accountability, allowing taxpayers to see how their money is being spent, and whether clear milestones are being met.
That's key to improving our systems, because we can't know where we're going if we don't have accurate and accessible data about where we are now.
This almanac captures a snapshot of where we are in higher education in Texas, and I think the spirit behind it has us heading in the right direction.
These improvements are moving us in the right direction, but we still face challenges in our higher education system, challenges we must overcome to maintain our status as a national economic leader.
I've said before, change often doesn't come easy, and our state university systems have a lot to be proud of.
Last session, I had the pleasure of signing House Bill 51, thanks in no small part to the hard work put in by Rep. [Dan] Branch, who authored the bill and Sen. [Judith] Zaffirini, who sponsored it in the Senate.
That bill provided a roadmap for creating more tier one schools in our state, an important part of strengthening Texas' diverse economy and positioning our state as a leader in future technological revolutions.
However, as we move forward, we must remember the key to any university's success is its students.
We have to ensure students have every opportunity to not only pursue a higher education, but ultimately earn a degree.
I've proposed measures to help make our institutions of higher education more affordable, accountable and accessible to students in the Lone Star State.
I've called for a four-year tuition freeze that would lock in tuition rates at or below the level paid in a student's freshman year.
I've challenged our institutions of higher learning to leverage new technology to create a bachelor's degree program that costs no more than $10,000 - books included.
We also need to take a long look at instituting outcomes-based funding, in which a significant percentage of undergraduate funding is awarded based upon a school's success in graduating students, not just enrolling them.
Many in the legislature have been working hard on this issue, trying to help make higher education more affordable, including Sen. [Judith] Zaffirini and Rep. [Dan] Branch, and I thank them for everything they're doing on behalf of current and future students of Texas.
This is a vital issue because every student who can't afford to go to college or gives up early due to the cost is a lost opportunity, not just for that individual but for our state, as well.
Now, I believe Rep. Branch has a few words to say - Dan?
Now, we'd be happy to take any questions from any members of the working press that are here today.