My name is Erin Valdez, and I’m education policy director at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. I’m here to voice our support for HB 3296.

Enrollment in community colleges suffered after COVID-19, falling about 11% since 2019. Some of this decline is due to a hot labor market, especially in the food and service sectors.

Yet it is important not to talk about these kinds of jobs as a second-class option. All work has dignity and can provide a context for learning soft skills, such as punctuality, communication, and conscientiousness, and so it is important to celebrate engagement in the labor force. According to economist Nick Eberstadt, and using the most recent available data, 6.4 million prime-age, able-bodied men are neither engaged in the workforce nor pursuing an education. This amounts to “two and a half prime-age men who were both un-working and not in school for each one who was jobless but seeking work,” a proportion that has grown significantly since 1965 (Men Without Work, pp. 72-73).