A&M-Commerce President, Ray Keck, offered his views on the value and importance of a college education during a series of interviews with Univision 23 hosts on August 30. Both are in Spanish and English transcripts are available here.
Translation of the Facebook Live appearance
INTERVIEWER: Facebook live friends, thank you so much for being here with us. We’re here again with the president of Texas A&M University-Commerce, and he’s here to speak with us on how to get an accessible and affordable university education. Thank you for being here with us, first of all.
PRESIDENT KECK: Thank you very much.
INTERVIEWER: Tell us.
PRESIDENT KECK: Well, I think what must be repeated over and over is that universities and the world of academia is open to any Spanish-speaking person regardless of finances. There are federal programs that ensure, for the most financially needy, what amounts to two-thirds of the cost for a full year of university studies. That cost is $7,000 a year and this aid comes from federal funds.
INTERVIEWER: Meaning, about $5,000.
PRESIDENT KECK: Yes, $5,500. And then there are state scholarships, and then there are merit scholarships that a student can earn through hard work with good grades.
INTERVIEWER: If a mother or potential student is watching and hoping to attend university, what is the first step?
PRESIDENT KECK: There are two paths. A four-year college that gives degrees, and then community college. Community college costs less than half what a university costs, and their mission is to be available to anyone. Their doors are open to everyone. And thanks to Texas state law, all general education courses can be transferred automatically to any public university in Texas.
INTERVIEWER: They have to have a high SAT score if they want to attend college first.
PRESIDENT KECK: For community college, SAT scores don’t matter.
INTERVIEWER: But for universities, they do.
PRESIDENT KECK: For transfer from a community college to a university, yes, but two years of good grades almost guarantee a student acceptance to a state university, and there are more than 30 in Texas. These institutions are all over the state.
INTERVIEWER: Now, what percentage of the student body at A&M-Commerce are minorities?
PRESIDENT KECK: Almost 50%.
INTERVIEWER: And Latinos?
PRESIDENT KECK: 19%.
INTERVIEWER: To what does the university owe this high percentage? That’s a higher percentage than the state average, right?
PRESIDENT KECK: We owe it to the desire we’ve always felt to recruit students that represent a global community. In their four years, students are able to experiment what the world they want to find their place in looks like.
INTERVIEWER: Doctor, if anyone is watching, a student or a mother whose child has told them they don’t want to attend college, they just want to find a job, why is it so important, especially in this globalized world, to go to college?
PRESIDENT KECK: What you described to me is youth’s greatest tragedy, to say “I’ll start with a job and then eventually I’ll enroll in college which is harder and more expensive,” and their family has needs. But in reality going from high school directly to college is easier and faster and a more guaranteed route to the workforce, to salaries, benefits, and financial security. And if there’s time between high school and college, you’re entering into dangerous territory. We have a program at A&M-Commerce to recruit those who eluded college enrollment directly after high school, who reached 25 or 30 and realized, “Jesus, I need this degree.”
INTERVIEWER: The diploma.
PRESIDENT KECK: Exactly. We have a program to facilitate this. But it’s much easier to go directly from high school, and to transfer from community college, because the first two years, classes are half the cost, and those credits must be transferred.
INTERVIEWER: Two important things you’ve said so far is that you recommend that students go through community college first, and emphasizing that there is aid available. Now, another concern in our community right now is the SB4. How is the university handling this law–I believe it doesn’t protect the university. Basically, students can be questioned on immigration status even on campus? How is this?
PRESIDENT KECK: Well, yes, you’re referring to–
INTERVIEWER: They’re not sensitive areas.
PRESIDENT KECK: Yes, you’re referring to undocumented students.
INTERVIEWER: Yes, the SB4.
PRESIDENT KECK: It’s a huge problem. The Dreamers, those who live here who are basically citizens, who have attended school in Texas, what rights do they have? They don’t have access to federal scholarships. But there are other options for scholarships and loans that they can get. But they must be tenacious, they must–
INTERVIEWER: Work hard.
PRESIDENT KECK: They must look for these opportunities, because it isn’t so simple. I wish I could say it was the same, that it didn’t matter, but it is more difficult. It’s possible, very possible, but it’s more complicated,
INTERVIEWER: And especially now that the elimination of DACA is being considered.
PRESIDENT KECK: Yes, that’s a great tragedy for everyone, let’s hope it doesn’t happen.
INTERVIEWER: Anything else, any mistakes, well, undocumented students you’ve already mentioned. As you said, undocumented students can get scholarships, so the best thing they can do is consult college counselors at their high schools?
PRESIDENT KECK: Yes, the college counselors in their high schools are really the key. They have to help students examine their options. The truth is each student comes with their own unique set of options, strengths, and possibilities, and the counselor, the one in charge of guiding them, must ask themselves what is this student’s history, and what’s best for them?
INTERVIEWER: Doctor, is there anything else you’d like to emphasize, anything I haven’t asked you yet, to our community?
PRESIDENT KECK: Well, you said something that I want to clarify, which is, I don’t recommend that every student begin with community college, but it is an option, a much less expensive option. However, four-year state universities like A&M-Commerce have people sitting at their desks right now, waiting for a Latino to walk in and say, I want to attend this university, how can I do it?
INTERVIEWER: You heard it. Anything else? Any mistake we make?
PRESIDENT KECK: No, well, a mistake we make, perhaps, is not convincing everyone that this is possible and necessary. It’s not only a duty but a privilege living in Texas. Texas has an excellent, strong public university system, and there’s a place right now for all who wish to attend.
INTERVIEWER: And parents must teach their children that education doesn’t end in 12th grade, that they must keep going until they graduate with their degree, it’s important.
PRESIDENT KECK: And what we haven’t mentioned are the loans. Don’t be afraid of loans. 60% of students at A&M-Commerce have loans when they graduate, meaning 40% graduate owing nothing. If at the end of four years, the total amount of loans is less than $30,000, that’s very good, and that’s very possible. What I hear often is, well, I don’t like loans. I don’t want to get a loan. Nobody likes loans, but they make it possible to get something which in the long run will make a life for you.
INTERVIEWER: It will improve your quality of life.
PRESIDENT KECK: Exactly, put the loan together with scholarships with federal aid, it’s possible to defray these costs. The great tragedy is when I hear a student say, I’ll work first and see how it goes. No, no, no. Or well, I’d like to, but I don’t have money, or college isn’t for me. Public university was created for you, for your siblings, for your cousins, and for all youth who aspire to the American dream, which is very much alive and possible.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you, Doctor, and thank you viewers, see you tomorrow at 11:30AM, and today at 5PM.
Translation of the Noon News program
MALE INTERVIEWER: If you have children who are about to attend college, this will interest you. With us live in the studio is Dr. Ray Keck, president of Texas A&M-Commerce.
FEMALE INTERVIEWER: Exactly, we know there are opportunities for students who want to study whose financial limitations are an obstacle. Welcome to our digital edition, and tell us, how does your university help these students.
PRESIDENT KECK: Thank you very much. I am here to tell you that the great American Dream is available for all Hispanics. The state of Texas has created a university system that extends throughout the state, and as we speak we have spots available for all those who want to enroll. The key to the door of that life, that world, is attending university.
MALE INTERVIEWER: And what does that mean, how do those who want to attend college ensure they have a spot? What are the requirements?
PRESIDENT KECK: Come into the Admissions office and sit down with someone who is prepared to help. There are scholarships and loans and all kinds of aid for those who need it. The process should begin in high schools, but if it hasn’t, that’s okay, you can show up to the Admissions office.
FEMALE INTERVIEWER: How much does a semester cost for an undergraduate at Texas A&M?
PRESIDENT KECK: One semester, for fifteen credit hours, meaning five courses, amounts to $7,000, give or take. Of that $7,000, $5,500 can be subsidized by the American government, by a Pell Grant. If a student doesn’t have the money to pay, they can qualify for a Pell Grant.
FEMALE INTERVIEWER: Do those have to be paid back? They’re scholarships.
PRESIDENT KECK: No, no, they’re scholarships, guaranteed. Not loans, scholarships.
MALE INTERVIEWER: And what happens if the dream comes from an undocumented student? Are there obstacles, or is there no problem?
PRESIDENT KECK: They are not eligible for federal aid, but there are many scholarships and many options, especially if they are in good academic standing in high school. It’s very important that students get serious as soon as they start high school. At least in the last two years, to prepare for college.
FEMALE INTERVIEWER: So what’s the first step, to reiterate, for those moms who are watching whose children want to attend college?
PRESIDENT KECK: Well, there are many community colleges. Community colleges accept everyone. Their mission is to open their arms to the entire population. So I would say the first step is come into an admissions office at a public university or a community college, bring your high school records, because there are scholarships. Money is not the issue. That is the biggest thing I want to leave everyone with.
FEMALE INTERVIEWER: That there is aid. Thank you, Dr. Keck. Later on, we’ll be having a Facebook live session, after our digital edition, so stay tuned. Thank you so much.
PRESIDENT KECK: Thank you.