Texas | 87th Legislative Session Overview 1
The 87th legislative session came to a close with monumental campus mental health initiatives and increased student debt data transparency . Important items- such as consumer protections for student loan borrowers – did not move forward. We will continue working with partners and students across the state toward equitable solutions in higher education completion, affordability, and student debt solutions. 

Completion and Supports
YI advocated for legislative action toward student mental health support on college campuses. Our research on the experiences of students of color with access to mental healthcare on college campuses led to pressing legislation to initiate a mental health task force to study mental health services provided at institutions of higher education. We collected student support for SB 1521 and spoke with legislative offices, sharing with them our one-pager, letter of support, and written testimony. Alongside our young adult engagement and advocacy, SB 1521 was amended onto SB 36, which was sent to the Governor to sign. YI also supported SB 279 and HB 1144, two vital bills which call for suicide prevention information on student identification cards and for public educators to receive suicide preventon and other mental health trainings; we submitted written testimony for these bills. Check out our partner, NAMI’s, SB 279 one-pager.

YI furthermore continued to champion an initiative to appoint parenting-student liaisons at every public college campus in Texas, a critical support to ensure parenting students are made aware of and have access to services toward degree completion, and that institutions collect data on this important population. Working with Family Pathways at United Way of Greater Austin, we partnered with Texas moms to advocate on why this bill is critical. Watch or read our testimony and read our collection of parenting students’ stories

We also provided student stories and testimony to support SB 165, which successfully passed to allow students at Texas public colleges to have course drop flexibility during disasters. We were in close communication with students over the last year, and worked with them through the pandemic, winter storm crisis, and the many economic and educational challenges faced during unprecedented transitions to postsecondary education. Our written testimony on SB 165 highlighted student stories and the need to protect students from being penalized for course drops during this academic year. 

In collaboration with Texas Postsecondary Advocates Coalition for Equity partners, YI also supported the establishment of a supplemental nutrition assistance program which would have helped low-income students enrolled in approved vocational or technical training programs access SNAP benefits. Read the letter of support for HB 2126 signed by Texas PACE organizations. 

Affordability and Student Debt 
Student debt in Texas continues to plague young adults and prevent them from economic opportunities. Texans collectively hold more than 101 billion dollars in student debt, and 14 percent of Texas student loan holders are in default. YI’s student debt research brought to life the statistics surrounding student loan debt, and led to our leadership and voice on student debt consumer protections. 
The introduction of SB 1859 was a critical step toward state solutions to protect borrowers, as the bill would have created a student loan ombudsman, licensing process for student loan servicers, and best practice loan servicing policies. The bill would also have created a state level student loan debt education course, a measure we support in order to equip young people to make decisions on financial aid and loan repayment. Additionally, we testified in support of HB 755, a bill that would have required technical and career colleges to post average debt and default rates on the Texas Workforce Commission website.  While these bills did not move forward, we were thrilled to jumpstart conversations about state leadership in addressing student loan debt protections. 

Addressing debt also means addressing state investment in higher education. Through the work of Texas PACE, we partnered with organizations across the state to host an event on the Texas higher education budget. Bringing students together to learn about the Texas budget, we shared videos and a twitter call to action for state funding in higher education!  We also worked with partners toward the successful passage of SB 1019, which will require Texas to report disaggregated student loan debt data. This data is essential to understanding the impacts of debt and creating equitable solutions. 
Multiple bills that will transform the Texas career pathways and apprenticeship landscape passed, paving new opportunities for young Texans to find and enroll in work-based learning opportunities. 

YI is especially thrilled about the passage of HB 1247, which will ensure alignment on comprehensive definitions for work-based learning goals, standards, and strategies, and strengthen work-based learning partnerships in the state. Our coalition public comment on HB 1247 highlighted that the creation of a Tri Agency task force would help Texas create work-based learning best practice, while bolstering education collaboration, thus better connecting students to opportunities. This supports the needs of students who desire quick entry into the workforce and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s 60X30 college completion goal. We also joined a letter of support for HB 1247 led by Texas PACE partner, Project Lead the Way. 

Additional initiatives that passed this session include The Texas Reskilling and Upskilling TRUE Workforce Initiative, a partnership structure that supports community colleges across the state to partner with employers in work-based learning programs, and HB 3767, which solidifies the tri-agency partnership between the Texas Workforce Commission, Texas Education Agency, and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. 

We are bringing more young adult voices to the Texas work-based learning landscape. During the interim, we will complete our report on equity and apprenticeships in Texas, with a focus on supporting women of color and moms in the workforce. Our project includes a landscape analysis of work-based learning and apprenticeship programs across the state, a series of informational interviews with stakeholders, focus groups with Texas women and moms, and events to co-design best practices for work-based learning. 
We entered the session hopeful that the legislature would add polling locations on college campuses, yet instead faced the introduction of voter suppression bills. We will continue to work with partners to promote voting access on campus while standing up against voter suppression, and against bills that limit young adults’ participation in the political process. 

YI supported HB 93, which would have created a polling location on every public college campus in Texas with 10,000 or more students. YI’s Texas Youth Advisory Board wrote a letter to Senate State Affairs and Elections Chairs regarding our opposition of SB 7 and the harmful effects of the bill, while focusing on the need for more campus polling locations that HB 93 would provide. We also joined the 50+ organizations against HB 3979, a harmful bill that restricts the teaching of critical race theory. We continue to stand against bills that limit young adult civic engagement.