State of the State
In his State of the State address this week, Gov. Greg Abbott announced a state hiring freeze that included institutions of higher education. As noted by the Associated Press, the move “applies only to positions supported by money appropriated by the Legislature. That might allow campuses to use tuition dollars to pay for some positions while shifting appropriated funds to other college and university expenses.” In his remarks, Abbott also called on lawmakers to fully fund his University Research Initiative, which aims to recruit talented faculty to Texas institutions.
Following the weekend Executive Order by President Trump restricting immigration from seven countries, Texas universities struggled this week with how to handle students and faculty who hailed from those countries. According to The Eagle, “Texas A&M University president Michael K. Young joined with other higher education officials from around the country Friday to express concern” over the order. Young was one of 598 university and college presidents who signed on to a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. It read, in part, "We take seriously the need to safeguard our nation and also the need for the United States to remain the destination of choice for the world's best and brightest students, faculty and scholars ... We are confident that our nation can craft policies that secure us from those who wish to harm us, while welcoming those who seek to study, conduct research and scholarship, and contribute their knowledge and talents to our country."
UT Austin President Greg Fenves, who also signed on to the letter to Kelly, issued a letter to the campus praising the contributions of the 110 students and faculty from the affected countries. UT System Chancellor McRaven, noted for masterminding the mission that killed Osama bin Laden, expressed his concern in a statement saying, “I would hope that my commitment to our nation's security cannot be questioned … But, I also stand behind the core values we hold as a nation.”
On Thursday, the Senate Nominations Committee gave approval to Janiece Longoria, Kevin Eltife and Rad Weaver to be the next UT System Regents. The full Senate is expected to take up the nominees as early as this week.
This week the UT System announced it was developing a “biobank” to allow multiple UT institutions to share data and biological samples used for medical research. “Once in place, the UTSHB network will speed scientific discovery and translation of these findings into patient care, and will make the research of UT faculty more competitive for grant funding,” said Ray Greenberg, UT System executive vice chancellor for health affairs.
A new study by the U.S. Department of Transportation highlighted the economic impact of a proposed “cross-border freight shuttle” a public-private partnership developed by Texas A&M. “The Freight Shuttle is a great example of how research universities and the private sector can solve everyday problems in the real world,” said Chancellor John Sharp. He added that the shuttle would “address border security, traffic congestion and environmental concerns” in addition to the economic benefits. Click here to watch a video of the shuttle in action.
Week of February 5, 2017
'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.”Continue reading
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.Continue reading