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.
The Governor’s University Research Initiative
Today, on the occasion of Governor Abbott’s announcement re: The Governor’s University Research Initiative, the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education issued the following statement:
“The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education applauds Governor Abbott’s commitment to higher education research. The Governor's University Research Initiative is an important tool for universities to attract and retain talented faculty who will draw research dollars to our state. As evidenced by last week’s announcement that four new Texas institutions were added to the prestigious list of Carnegie ‘Tier One’ institutions, Texas is a research state on the rise and we must ensure our institutions have the necessary resources to continue this ascent. Research contributes to our economy, sparks new discoveries and innovations that enrich our lives, and helps ensure a deeper, more meaningful educational experience for Texas students. When Texas research institutions win, all Texans win.”
February 10, 2016Continue reading
New Carnegie Foundation “Tier One” designations for four Texas schools dominated state higher ed news this week. The prestigious designation of "R-1: Doctoral Universities-Highest Research Activity" is based primarily on a school’s research and development expenditures and doctoral activity, is afforded to only 115 schools nationwide and until this year Texas had just four – Texas A&M, UT Austin, Rice and U of H. That number doubled when Texas Tech University, the University of North Texas, the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Texas at Dallas were added to the roster this week.Continue reading