The "Great Opportunity Creator"

Kel Seliger, the Chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, this week introduced a series of bills he says would curb the cost of college at Texas public institutions. The proposed legislation would repeal the tuition set-aside program, freeze tuition and fees, and implement a performance-based funding model. According to Seliger, "we will have the opportunity to implement a long-term tuition reform solution which holds institutions accountable and ensures they remain accessible and affordable." Also this week, leaders in the House and Senate released budget proposals that are $8 billion apart. The Senate budget does not change the state’s funding formula for higher education.
 
A new comprehensive report of college graduates provided new insight into who goes to college, who graduates and how much money they make after graduation. The data show a complex picture of higher education in America, noting the drop-off in lower income students at many public colleges (attributed to “plummeting” state support), but also highlighting colleges who “push many Americans into the middle class and beyond.” The University of Texas El Paso was highlighted as one of “America’s Great Working-Class Colleges” in a New York Times editorial on the data. “UTEP opens the doors to people from all walks of life,” said a 2010 graduate from UT El Paso. But, UTEP’s president Diana Natalicio noted the challenges the school faces when it comes to state funding. “It’s really been a nightmare … The state does not recognize — and it’s not just in Texas — the importance that the investment in public education has for the economy and so many other things. Education was for me, and for many of the rest of us, the great opportunity creator.”
 
Visit this interactive data base to see how your university stacks up when it comes to income and social mobility.
 
So how well is Texas doing when it comes to getting students through the public education system and into college? You can check out the Texas Tribune Higher Ed Outcomes Explorer, which documents the outcomes of every student who started 8th grade in Texas public school during eight academic years (1996 through 2004).to track if they finish high school, enroll in college and complete a post-secondary certificate or degree program. Student data can be compared region or by county.
 
Retired astronaut Michael Fossum has been appointed as the new chief of Texas A&M Galveston. Fossum, a McAllen native, is a Texas A&M graduate who spent 12 years in the Air Force before joining NASA where he spent more than 20 years.
 
An accreditation group that placed UT RGV on probation this week explained its decision and acknowledged the move was based primarily on timing issues related to dissolving UT Brownsville in order to merge it into UT RGV. “All of the standards violated were linked to miscommunication regarding UTB’s transition,” according to a letter provided this week.

Week of January 22, 2017

Latest Updates

  • Dramatic Changes

    With higher education facing financial and public opinion headwinds, Rice University took a proactive step this week by unveiling a seven-point plan to demonstrate its value to the public. According to the university, the plan is partially in response to “dramatic changes” in higher education. According to the Houston Chronicle, “Rice University plans to double research funding, work more closely with Houston and make undergraduate education more affordable for middle-class students in its next decade, a recognition that even the city's most prestigious campus must show its worth in a cultural climate skeptical of higher education.”

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  • "You can’t legislate morality or civility"

    “No one should be shouted down … We need to put an end to that. But you can’t legislate morality or civility — I get that,” said Sen. Joan Huffman during a State Affairs Committee hearing on campus free speech issues last week. In the wake of a series of incidents on college campuses nationally, and here in Texas, where conservative speakers had been dis-invited or shouted down because of their political views, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick tasked the panel with coming up with solutions to “protect First Amendment rights and enhance the free speech environment on campus.” The panel was co-hosted by Texas State University and held in San Marcos. “Senators seemed to agree that no one has the right not to be offended,” according to the Austin American-Statesman account. Read more here on free speech conflicts on Texas campuses in 2017.

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