Gov. Perry Celebrates Progress in Texas Higher Education
Encourages supports of the UNCF
*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Thank you, Dr. [Michael] Lomax, [UNCF President & CEO] and let me say it is an honor to welcome you to Texas.
You've picked a great time to visit our state. Flowers are blooming, our NBA teams well, most of them are in the playoffs, and our Legislature is in session.
Here in Texas, experience tells us that there are few things more dangerous than a Legislature with time on its hands, so ours only meets every other year for 140 days, so the pace is pretty aggressive.
That's why Senators Ellis and West can't be with us today. They're up in Austin, fighting the good fight for their districts.
I want to commend all of you for being here today, as you continue fighting your own good fight to create opportunity, making it possible for hardworking young people to get their education, and continue improving their lives and our state.
I believe the importance of an education cannot be overstated, and am proud that the quality of education in our state is getting better all the time.
In years past, I have worked hard to improve accessibility for Texans by improving financial aid. If you compare the amount of money appropriated for financial aid ten years ago to today, we have increased it more than 500%. As a result, approximately 93,000 more Texas students will receive state-funded financial aid in 2009 than in 1999.
I'd say that's a good increase, but I think we need to do more, both as a state government, and as private citizens, because the need for education is only going to grow.
In our increasingly competitive global economy, experts estimate that 90% of new jobs will require some post-high school education, so we need to get students the education they need to keep our workforce competitive.
Texas is very competitive, in spite of the current global economic challenges, but we're not immune to the issues affecting other states. Fortunately, our unemployment percentage is more than a full point below the national average, we're home to the most Fortune 500 companies, and we're still the best place to pursue your dreams.
I am proud of the United Negro College Fund and your strong history of helping young people achieve their dreams. Since 1944, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) has helped more than 300,000 students earn undergraduate and graduate degrees.
That represents 300,000 citizens with the tools to make a better life, get a better job, and take better care of their families.
Thanks to the generosity of people like you here in this room today, more than 2,000 students from Texas have received scholarship funds from the UNCF since the beginning of this decade.
Many of them have chosen to attend traditionally black colleges in Texas, historic institutions like Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Wiley College in Marshall, Texas College in Tyler, Paul Quinn College in Dallas, and Huston-Tillotson University in Austin.
We're honored to have the presidents from each of those schools with us today. Congratulations to each of you for keeping the desire to learn burning in the hearts of your students. Congratulations as well for getting so much done in a world of limited resources.
As private institutions, you have done remarkable things as you've procured funding through a variety of sources. Those funds are having a real impact in the here and now, at places like Wiley College, where 20 seniors will graduate with their class thanks to your Emergency Student Aid program.
By covering their unpaid balances, you helped these hardworking men and women achieve a very important milestone on their journey of life.
Gathered here today, all of you have an opportunity to help more deserving students in the semesters to come.
I would encourage you to emulate supporters like UNCF's national sponsor, AT&T, and Texas sponsors like HEB, Perry Homes and BP, that don't just SAY nice things about education, they DO things that make a difference.
Working together, these great organizations and the friends of the UNCF gathered here today are making a huge difference, and putting education within reach for so many.
I'd like to congratulate the folks who sponsored tables here at lunch: you're making a difference. I want to thank you all for being here today and for supporting the vital mission of this legendary organization. You're making a difference.
I believe that an educated Texan is an unlimited Texan, so I'll continue to call for improvements to education. I want Texas children to know this simple truth: "We don't care where you come from; we care where you are going."
When students go to a traditionally black college, they are becoming part of a rich heritage and making a great choice for their future.
These colleges educate roughly 35% of African American attorneys, 50% of our African American teachers, and 50% of our African American physicians. These schools provide a nurturing environment for students who might not otherwise have the chance to go to college.
At these schools, these valuable young people can seek truth, grow in their understanding of their true worth, and launch themselves into meaningful careers.
I hope that you will join me in saluting the United Negro College Fund for its remarkable history of changed lives, join me in celebrating their vision, and join me supporting their efforts to improve education in our state and across our nation.
Thank you, may God bless you and may He continue to bless the great state of Texas.