The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s “seven breakthrough solutions” have been answered in countless ways since their initial unveiling: the University of Texas System released data on faculty productivity, Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl issued a detailed retort, and most recently, Liberal Arts Associate Dean Marc Musick has given UT faculty high marks in his numbers-based report.
Regardless of their varied conclusions, I am troubled by this quest to win the numbers race at the cost of excluding student success from the discourse.
In fact, graduation rates have so far been the only metric used to include students in the discussion at all. This sentiment was reiterated to me when I was asked to meet with a regent and the controversial, since-removed “special adviser” to the Board.
I had expected to share with them my own student-focused approach to higher education reform on behalf of the UT student government’s “Invest in Texas” platform. I urged them to help us keep UT safe, affordable, and competitive. I was baffled when my points were brushed aside by decidedly “seven solutions”-esque rhetoric.
It has come to this—the absolutely counterintuitive notion that students must convince legislators and the powers-that-be that the quality of our degrees matters.
Our learning and achievements have been reduced to numbers like graduation rates and professor research revenue.
But, simply stated, we are unquantifiable.
When I testified before the Senate Finance Committee last session, I told them I knew students who were becoming some of Texas’s most prominent writers, who were using their McCombs education to enhance the Texas business world, who were going to work in some of our state’s most cutting-edge laboratories, and who were even going on to work in the committee members’ offices.
In short, I told them I knew students who exemplify our motto of “What Starts Here Changes the World.”
So what chart can explain the impact we make once we’ve left the Forty Acres? The number of professional schools we attend? The companies we work for? I’m not sure anyone could have predicted that a journalism major on a track scholarship would graduate in 1977 and go on to lead the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.
It seems that many have forgotten one of UT’s most exceptional qualities: its students. I can assure you, however, that the students have not forgotten that they are getting the short end of this stick.
Muneezeh Kabir is a former UT student body vice president. Photo by Corey Leamon.
Great isn’t good enough.
This week Gov. Greg Abbott sat down with The Alcalde, the alumni magazine of the Texas Exes, for a wide-ranging interview about the state of higher education in Texas. He discussed innovation, his Governor’s University Research Initiative, the Dell Medical School and the appointment of regents who share his vision of helping UT Austin strive “to be the No. 1 public university in the United States of America.” He also praised recent rankings saying that "those are great numbers" but, he added, "this is Texas and great isn't good enough. We expect to be the best."Continue reading
"You are not going to get a job."
This week the Texas House of Representatives took up the topic of college tuition in what was described as a “kinder and gentler” manner than their Senate colleagues. While Committee members expressed concern over costs, they also cited the affordability of community colleges in Texas and noted that while costs are increasing at four year institutions, they are still relatively low overall. “Our two flagships — A&M and UT-Austin — are frequently listed among the best educational bargains in the country," said Raymund Paredes, chairman of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.Continue reading