Higher education is more important than ever for Texas to remain competitive in today’s global economy. Community colleges fill a pivotal role helping ensure Texans have broad access to postsecondary education and that the state has a trained workforce in place to meet the demand.

More and more, Texas community colleges are becoming the first choice of high school students. In fact, more than 50 percent of students attending public higher education institutions in Texas – more than 725,000 students – attended a two-year college in fall 2017.

The impact of community colleges reaches even further – with 70 percent of all four-year university graduates in Texas having been enrolled at a two-year institution at some point before their graduation.

Enrolling in a community college makes sense and saves money! Texas has the third lowest average tuition for public, two-year institutions nationally, providing students a quality education at an affordable price.

Tuition isn’t the only cost to consider, as attending a community college for two years allows many students to live at home, saving money that might have been spent on room and board, and enabling them to take advantage of family and friends being nearby for support.

Texas community colleges also support dual credit as a proven means for high school students to get a head start on college by earning college credits while still in high school.  This effort is a key factor in meeting the state’s 60X30TX plan – the goal of at least 60 percent of Texans, ages 25-34, having a degree or certificate by 2030.

While preparing students academically for transferring to a four-year university remains a priority, Texas community colleges also are focused on educating and training the Texas workforce.

In 2017 alone, 93 percent, or 54,000, of all technical certificates and associate degrees were awarded by Texas community colleges.

In the Texas Gulf Coast region, the Texas Gulf Coast Community College Consortium is hard at work helping educate students for transfer to four-year colleges and for earning credentials to be able to work in high-demand industries like IT, energy, manufacturing, health care and more.

The consortium consists of nine community colleges in the Gulf Coast region – Alvin Community College, Brazosport College, College of the Mainland, Galveston College, Houston Community College, Lee College, Lone Star College, San Jacinto College and Wharton County Junior College.

These colleges educate 25 percent of all community college students in the state.

According to a recent report by the Manpower Group, about half of employers say they’re having difficulty filling job openings, and skilled trades workers are the hardest to find.

In the Gulf Coast region those jobs run the gamut from truck drivers, laborers, technicians and engineers to sales representatives, teachers and nurses.

Six of the 10 fastest-growing occupations, however, typically require less than a bachelor’s degree, including jobs like physical therapist assistants, diagnostic medical sonographers and occupational therapy assistants.

Enter Texas community colleges, which are designed for students right out of high school as well as for the older students. More and more workers in these fast-growing occupations are pursuing higher education to be able to expand their career options, to get ahead in their current job or to learn new skills for a different career altogether.

A recent study also reports that nearly 70 percent of the adult students attending community college work while enrolled, with 33 percent working 35 or more hours per week.

That’s why the flexible schedules and online offerings at the Gulf Coast community colleges are so attractive. Students are able to take classes on their own schedule and timeline.

Affordable tuition, quality education, flexible scheduling, academic transfer and credentials for working in high-demand industries – they all add up.

Community colleges are a solid investment for the future of Texas. To learn more about the Texas Gulf Coast Community College Consortium, visit gulfcoastcc.org/.