The politics and policies of higher education in Texas : 1995-2013




Villarreal, Mike, 1971-

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This dissertation is composed of three independent investigations within the subject of higher education policy. Chapter 1 introduces the investigations and provides a description of the authors personal involvement in the policies analyzed. Chapter 2 presents the first investigation, a case study of higher education finance policymaking in Texas from 1995 to 2013. This study used the Advocacy Coalitions Framework and the cognitive linguistic theory of moral politics to identify three advocacy coalitions that competed with each other to affect higher education finance policy. Using a mixed-methods approach, this study identified the policy belief systems of the Egalitarian Coalition, the Free-Market Coalition, and the University Coalition. Through a history of policy changes, this study analyzed the effect of state government moving from bipartisan to one-party Republican leadership. The next two chapters then evaluated two major policy changes that occurred during this policy history. Chapter 3 presents a regression discontinuity analysis that estimated the causal relationship between a state grant program for low-income students and a series of educational and workforce outcomes that define a student's journey through college, the early years of their adult work life, and graduate degree attainment. This study found that grant aid improved persistence and bachelor's degree completion, reduced student debt, and increased the likelihood of graduate degree attainment. Grant effects on early career earnings were positive, but not statistically significant. Chapter 4 presents a study of dual credit as a school-district policy. This investigation estimated the effects of dual credit on outcomes that trace a student's journey from high school to undergraduate and graduate degree completion. Dual credit was a school district policy that allowed high school students to enroll in college-level coursework and simultaneously earn high school and college credit. This study also investigated the potential for improving the design of dual-credit programs by exploring heterogeneous effects by program attributes. Using panel data with school district fixed effects, this investigation found that increases in the share of students earning dual credit were associated with increased high school graduation; increased university application, admission, and enrollment; shortened time to degree completion; and increased associate, bachelor's, and graduate degree attainment. Chapter 5 concludes this dissertation with a discussion of the policy implications of the findings.



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