Frequently Asked Questions

Preparing to Dream team on campusHow were the PTD school districts chosen?

School districts were chosen based on their commitment to and enthusiasm for expanding the college-going culture in their district. Many encouraging college-going programs are already underway in the region, and Preparing to Dream will help initiative partners move from "pockets of excellence" to a systemwide approach.

What was the timeline?

Team members from the five Preparing to Dream districts began their work in December 2007.

Each school district assembled vertical teams consisting of district officials, principals, teachers, parents and students to analyze student achievement data, college-going rates and trends, district demographics and current college access programs. Teams were assisted by nationally recognized data coaches and core team coaches of Texas educational leaders. Data was used to identify problems, establish priorities, and develop implementation plans for three-year initiatives aimed at improving student outcomes and transforming district culture.

Starting in the 2008-09 school year, these plans were put into action. Each year, the teams refined their projects based on lessons learned and interim student results.

The project concluded at the end of the 2010-11 school year. Read all about each district's outcomes in Preparing to Dream District Results.

Starting in Spring 2012, most of the Preparing to Dream districts are continuing their work in this arena through a new project -- Gulf Coast Partners Achieving Student Success (GC PASS) -- which is led by the University of Texas at Austin, Houston A+ Challenge and the Institute for Evidence-Based Change, and involves eight local community college districts and 11 local ISDs.

Why are student post-secondary success initiatives needed?

The goal of Preparing to Dream was to improve postsecondary access and success among all of the Houston region's students, but especially among low-income students and those who are the first generation in their family to pursue postsecondary education.

Over the past 30 years, the demographics of the Houston region have changed dramatically. Increasing numbers of our region's youth come from families that are economically disadvantaged, just as college tuitions continue to rise. For many, the barriers to postsecondary education seem daunting.

Meanwhile, 77 percent of Houstonians believe that a high school education is not enough to get a good job.

As Rice University Professor Stephen Klineberg, author of the Houston Area Survey, puts it: “If this city's Hispanic and African-American young people are unprepared to succeed in the new knowledge economy, it is hard to envision a prosperous future for Houston. Making major improvements in access to quality education will be as critical to the success of the Houston economy in the 21st century as dredging the ship channel was in the 20th century.”

Yet the state of Texas needs to enroll 630,000 more college and university students by the year 2015, just to close the gap between Texas and other states. And simply enrolling more students is not enough – they must graduate, too.

Community colleges provide a vital gateway to success for many low-income students. 70 percent of Texas' higher education enrollment is projected to be at community colleges by the year 2015. Student enrollment growth at Texas' community colleges grew twice as fast as at the state's public universities this fall. (Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board)

Some other statistics, from First in the Family:

Race, Income and the Opportunity Gap

  • Only 20 percent of college-age Hispanic students and 31 percent of college-age Black students are enrolled in college. For Whites and Asians, the numbers are 41 and 60 percent.
  • Only 6 percent of low-income students earn a bachelors degree, compared to 40 percent of high-income students. On average, low-income students also take longer to achieve their degree.

The Situation is Improving, But Gaps Remain

  • The percentage of Blacks ages 25 to 35 with four-year college degrees more than doubled between 1970 and 2000, going from 6.5 percent to 15 percent.
  • In 2000, 22 percent of 18- to 24-year-old Hispanics were enrolled in college, up from 16 percent in 1980. Between 1980 and 1990, the number of bachelors degrees awarded to Hispanics rose by 68 percent. During the 1990s, it rose by 105 percent, faster than for any other racial/ethnic group.
  • The percentage of low-income high school graduates, ages 16-24, enrolled in college grew from 23 percent in 1972 to 44 percent in 1996.

Academic Preparation Matters a Lot

  • More than three-quarters of students who earn an A or A-plus grade average in high school complete college, compared to one-fifth of students with a C average in high school.
  • Over 60 percent of students who have taken two or more Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school graduate from college in four years or less, compared with 29 percent of students who have taken no AP classes.
  • Seventy-five percent of students who take pre-calculus in high school go on to earn a bachelors degree, compared to 7 percent who stop math after Algebra 1.

College Costs a Lot, But Aid is Available

  • In 2002, average tuition and fees came to $4,000 at a public four-year college or university and $18,000 at a private institution. These figures do not include the additional costs for room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and other personal expenses.
  • In 1986, the average federal need-based Pell Grant covered 98 percent of tuition at a public four-year school. Today these grants cover only 57 percent of state-school tuition.
  • Despite soaring tuition costs, in 1999-2000, half of all undergraduates who attended a college or university participating in federal student aid programs failed to apply for financial aid. In 2005, there were over 1.3 million scholarships were available, worth over $3 billion.

College Keeps Paying Off, Your Whole Life Long

  • Over a lifetime, a college graduate can expect to earn $1 million more than a high school graduate.
  • On average, college graduates have lower rates of unemployment than high school graduates.
  • College graduates have more jobs to choose from.
  • Just one year of college can increase lifetime earnings 15 percent.
  • College gets you out of your neighborhood and into a bigger world. It can open doors you never imagined.
  • People see you as a leader when you are the first in your family to go to college.
  • When you have a college education, you make better decisions as a consumer.
  • People who go to college live longer.