Texas politics is, and always will be, a small world.
Any chance I get to be with the UNCF is a chance I try to take, because the UNCF has played such a key role in helping young people achieve their goal of a higher education.
Every life your organization touches shines as an example to others, an inspiration to encourage other young people to examine their own goals, to rethink what's possible in their own lives.
We're seeing evidence of a seismic shift here in Texas, as a result of young Texans dreaming bigger than they ever have before.
Last summer, we got the welcome news that participation in the SATs in Texas has soared over the last five years, particularly among our state's minority populations.
We saw a 65 percent increase among Hispanic students, and a 42 percent increase among African-Americans.
Those are incredible numbers, because if there's any statistic that measures dreams, that's the one.
It's worth noting, too, that nearly nine percent of African-American women are enrolled in higher education in Texas, the highest participation rate of any group.
More and more young Texans of all backgrounds believe that college is a vital component of their personal success, and they're taking active steps to get themselves there.
I'd like to take a few minutes and go over some of the initiatives I'm proposing here in Texas to remove the roadblocks and allow them to pursue that success, making college more accessible and, ultimately, affordable.
To begin with, I've called for a four-year tuition freeze for incoming freshmen, meaning they'll be paying the same price for tuition for four years, beginning on the day they enroll.
If they go for more than four years, their tuition may go up.
Not only will this give students and their families cost certainty heading into their education, it also will provide a powerful incentive for them to finish their degree on time.
Just as it is across this country, that's a major concern in Texas.
Currently less than 30 percent of students at our four-year institutions graduate in four years, and only 58 percent have their degree in six.
Clearly, the system can, and must, be improved.
That's why we also need to link a portion of each university's funding to student outcomes.
Under the existing formula, university funding is based primarily upon enrollment...but I'm calling for a portion of that funding - 10 percent -to be tied to how many of those students are actually receiving degrees.
Put simply, if you're not graduating your students, you'll get less state funding.
This will encourage universities to do everything they can to help their students complete their degrees, and graduate in a timely fashion.
Along those lines, we're going to make sure students have a clear picture of how much is at stake when it comes to graduating on time, by requiring universities to inform students how much they'll spend on their degree if they graduate in four years, and how much more it'll cost if it takes five or six.
Of all the proposals and initiatives I've discussed, few have captured the imagination quite like a challenge I issued during our State of the State address almost two years ago, a challenge for universities to create degrees that cost no more than $10,000.
When I first issued the challenge, a whole bunch of people insisted it couldn't be done.
A whole bunch more, however, went to work to figure out how to get it done.
The early results are promising with ten Texas institutions already announcing plans to put a $10,000 degree program in place, with others in development.
This idea has spread, in fact, with Florida Gov. Rick Scott issuing his own challenge to Florida universities just this week.
It's great to see, because a challenge like this accomplishes two main goals.
First and most importantly, it provides an opportunity for students to earn low-cost, high-quality degrees that will get them where they want to go in their careers and their lives.
Secondly, it has smart people at our universities thinking, and thinking hard, about how to streamline their operations, and how to get the most education for every tuition dollar.
The lessons they'll learn from this process will prove invaluable as we move forward.
We have to do better, and educate more students, because our future, economically and otherwise, is tied to our ability to ensure that any student that wants a degree can earn one through hard work and dedication.
Once again, I thank you for this opportunity to be here today, and for all the UNCF has done to advance the cause of higher education throughout the United States.
May God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless this great country we love so much.