A Momentum Changer
The Texas Senate unanimously approved three new regents on Tuesday of last week. Janiece Longoria, Rad Weaver and Kevin Eltife were confirmed and sworn-in ahead of their first board meeting in Austin on Wednesday. Their appointments bring to a close what has been, at times, a tumultuous period for the Board, most notably because of the ongoing battles – legal and otherwise – brought on by outgoing regent Wallace Hall. The terms of regents Alex Cranberg and Brenda Pejovich also came to an end this week.
Texas institutions are “scrambling” to comply with a hiring freeze ordered by Gov. Abbott. While there is some question as to whether or not the governor has the legal authority to issue the freeze, the institutions are working with the Governor’s office to obtain waivers for “critical positions” as needed. Both Texas A&M and UT Austin have expressed concern over the ability to hire in time for summer courses and camps. “… If we don’t get a waiver, we are studying whether or not we can offer summer classes. Many of those classes are critical for students to be able to graduate on time,” said Laylan Copelin, Texas A&M System spokesman.
In a roundup of higher education budget cuts around the country the Wall Street Journal this week highlighted how the budget proposal in the Texas Senate would impact smaller schools around the state. “Texas A&M University-Kingsville, which has grown quickly in recent years and now has about 9,300 students, gets about one-third of its total operating budget from state sources and it is facing a 37% cut in state appropriations—about $26 million—over the next biennium, according to President Steven Tallant.” If the Senate budget were to pass, Talent added, “It is absolutely a momentum-changer.”
This week The University of Texas System and the Texas Association of Community Colleges convened a “first-of-its-kind” collaboration called the Texas Dual Credit Task Force. “Dual credit programs have experienced remarkable growth in recent years. We want to ensure that students have access to effective, high-quality dual credit programs that equip them with the knowledge and skills to complete certificates, associate degrees and baccalaureate degrees,” said Wanda Mercer, UT System Associate Vice Chancellor for student Affairs. “At the end of the day, we want graduates from all Texas institutions to strengthen the state’s workforce with their skills.”
The Legislature is also looking closely at the community college to university pipeline. Senate Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson has asked Sen. Royce West to spearhead a working group on the issue. Lawmakers have expressed frustration with an estimated $60 million that students spend on community college credits that do not transfer to universities. “I am tired of answering these questions from parents of 'Why can’t this transfer' and 'Why can’t that transfer,'” West told the Texas Tribune. “And I know I am not the only one.”
Week of February 12, 2017
“A clever political move”
Calling it “a clever political move,” the San Antonio Express-News editorial board criticized state lawmakers for turning tuition-setting authority to regents, saying Texas parents have lawmakers to thank for higher tuition bills this fall. “State lawmakers know they can shortchange higher education because the university boards will feel obligated to make up the difference with tuition. An added bonus of the arrangement is that it allows the regents, appointees of the governor, to take the heat off elected officials, who can claim no direct involvement in the rising cost of a college education. But, in truth, cutting state funding for higher education directly causes tuition increases. Denial is a sham, and pointing fingers at regents is an evasion of responsibility.”Continue reading
A longhorn and leading former member of the Trump Administration is being considered to head The University of Texas System, according to media reports. Rex Tillerson, who was ousted as Secretary of State just two weeks ago, is “open” to the idea of becoming the next UT System Chancellor per a Wall Street Journal report. Tillerson gave a farewell address at the State Department this week and his final official day on the job is March 31. Chancellor Bill McRaven will step down as Chancellor in May. “Rex is a solid citizen, very ethical, straightforward, and straight talking,” said ExxonMobil general counsel Charles Matthews to Texas Monthly. “He brings great integrity to whatever he does, and if he were chosen he would be a very, very solid choice.”Continue reading