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Research Questions

  1. How can assessments of Texas's future workforce needs inform decisions to develop or expand postsecondary education programs?
  2. How can planners conveniently compare labor supply and demand estimates?

In May 2013, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1296, requiring a report on Texas's future workforce needs that would help inform decisions to develop or expand postsecondary education programs. Educators and policymakers in Texas and elsewhere have a wide variety of quantitative and qualitative workforce information available for planning degree and certificate programs in colleges and universities. Such information can serve at least three major purposes: (1) strategic review of program alignment at the state or institutional level; (2) a broader strategic scan of occupations and fields of study where new programs may be needed; and (3) institutional proposal development for the opening and closing of programs, and the subsequent review of these proposals by the state. To guide the use of these data resources and to respond to the legislative requirement, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board asked the RAND Corporation to describe current practices in using workforce information for degree program planning in Texas and elsewhere; analyze options for using workforce information and recommend promising practices; develop data tools, where feasible; and apply these tools and describe findings. One of the major tools the project develops is a matrix that allows convenient comparisons of occupational supply and demand at the state and regional levels. This report is the result of that project.

Key Findings

Choosing the Data to Use Matters, but So Does How They Are Used

  • Each data source has important limitations, so none of the sources should be used on its own to inform planning. It is important to use data from a range of quantitative and qualitative sources, including statistics and employer engagement.
  • Workforce information should be used in Texas not only to manage new and ongoing degree programs but also for periodic strategic planning at the state, regional, and institutional levels.
  • The new matrix tool that the authors developed offers planners a convenient way to summarize the balance between occupational supply and demand in the state as a whole and in regions within it.


  • To improve planning processes, decisionmakers should use workforce data for regular strategic planning. By more systematically and regularly analyzing workforce data, the state and institutions might be able to identify unmet needs earlier and mobilize resources to meet those needs. They should also provide institutions guidance on appropriate data use.
  • To enhance data resources, decisionmakers should develop approaches to systematically engage employers, identify strategies to explore emerging trends, assess existing capacity, and provide access to major data resources. To ensure that institutions are using a common set of data resources, the state should explore whether more cost-effective ways could achieve statewide access to these tools.

The research in this report was produced for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board by RAND Education, a unit of the RAND Corporation.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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