In 2000, education leaders in Texas adopted a 15-year plan called Closing the Gaps by 2015 that was designed to encourage more Texans to attend and graduate from college. The plan called for colleges and universities in Texas to enroll 630,000 students by 2015 and award 210,000 undergraduate degrees and certificates a year. It also called for schools to increase the number of low-income and minority students who enroll and graduate.

With several months still to go before the official end of the initiative, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has announced that the state has met or surpassed many of the plan’s goals. In 2014, for example, 246,500 undergraduate degrees and certificates were awarded, surpassing the goal of 210,000 for such credentials by 2015. In 2014, 80,000 bachelor’s degrees were awarded to Hispanic students, surpassing the target to award 67,000 such credentials by 2015.

Temple College has played a part in helping the state reach these milestones. Figures released in September show that the college has increased enrollment by 54 percent since fall 2000, and the number of degrees and certificates awarded has increased 98 percent over the same time. The number of degrees and certificates awarded to African-American and Hispanic students increased by 130 percent and 239 percent respectively. And the number of students receiving Pell grants, which are awarded to low-income students, increased from 22 percent in fall 2000 to 51 percent in fall 2014.

“Closing the Gaps by 2015 has helped Texas higher education institutions focus on helping all students be successful and has been an example for other states,” said Temple College President Dr. Glenda O. Barron. “Temple College has done its part to help the state reach the Participate and Success goals, and we are proud of what we have accomplished.”

Dr. Barron worked at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board when the Closing the Gaps by 2015 initiative was developed.

The Closing the Gaps by 2015 initiative is being replaced by a new initiative for 2015-2030 called 60x30TX. This initiative sets a goal that by 2030, at least 60 percent of Texans ages 25 to 34 will have a certificate or degree. Other goals of the 60x30TX initiative include having at least 550,000 students a year complete some form of degree or certification, making sure that all graduates from Texas public institutions of higher education complete programs with marketable skills, and making sure that undergraduate student loan debt does not exceed 60 percent of ­first-year wages.