National economist Dr. Ray Perryman today told Tarleton State University faculty and staff that higher education is critical to the state’s future success, and that members of the 85th Texas Legislature should consider its impact on social and economic gains now and going forward.

Perryman, founder and president of the Perryman Group in Waco, presented his views on higher education in Texas during Tarleton’s annual Planning Council Spring Forum.

“If Texas wants to be great in the future, higher education is a must,” he said, underscoring the need for legislators to think about the next 20 to 40 years as they consider best ways to fund state-supported colleges and universities.

Perryman said that the benefits of higher education are undeniable, including economic and social improvements for all Texas residents. Higher education creates a more productive workforce, and the state is more competitive in attracting new, diversified economic opportunities.

In addition, he explained that a more educated populace tends to rely less on social service programs and boosts intellectual and creative capital, ensuring that Texas is well poised for advances in technology, manufacturing and health care.

 “Texas is growing at a rate of 1,200 people per day,” Perryman said, “and there’s no reason to think that we won’t keep growing. By 2040, Texas will be home to 40 million people. Half of all public school students will be Hispanic, and the Hispanic population will control 4.8 percent of the state’s wealth. It’s important that those students—and all Texas students—continue their education beyond high school if Texas is to continue its success.”

Currently, 75 percent of Hispanic students don’t continue their education beyond high school or drop out of college due to economic constraints, he pointed out.

According to Perryman, the average graduating class at Tarleton will contribute more than $60 billion in spending money in Texas during their lifetime and provide 200,000 years of employment.

“When it comes the current legislative session, keep the faith,” he told Tarleton faculty and staff. “Keep doing what you do, and do it well. When it comes to funding for higher education, we have to trust that our legislators will see its value for today, and for tomorrow.”