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

  • 'Robin Hood' for Higher Ed?

    As budget battles in the Legislature heat up, the question of whether or not lawmakers will tap into the Rainy Day Fund continues to be a hot topic of discussion at the capitol – and on the state’s editorial pages. The Eagle this week laid out the case for why lawmakers should access the fund for public and higher education needs, saying the fund should “not be sacrosanct” … “It would be a shame to let our students suffer because of a refusal to dip into the Rainy Day Fund.”

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  • Read my lips: No More Bills

    Friday was the last day for Texas lawmakers to file a bill this legislative session, which brought about an expected flurry of activity. One bill, filed by Rep. J.M. Lozano, would limit higher education benefits for the children of veterans, a controversial issue killed in the 2015 Session. When lawmakers passed the provision (the Hazelwood Act) to allow veterans to pass their benefits to their dependents, it predicted a $10 million price tag – a figure, it turns out, was dramatically underestimated. The cost in 2015 was $178 million and is expected to increase. The state only picks up 20% of the tab, leaving the universities to pay for the rest. Lozano’s bill would limit benefits to veterans who served four years or more, and would expire the benefit 15 years after an honorable discharge, so it would only apply to kids born while their parents were on active duty.

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