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 workhorse for our nation’s scientists and engineers"
Saying it was “among our biggest challenges,” this week Texas A&M President Michael K. Young indicated that lowering the faculty-to-student ratio was a top priority. While the institution has experienced tremendous growth in its student body, hiring of faculty has not kept pace. Last fall, Texas A&M’s ratio was 23-to-1. “As a comparison, Young noted the University of Texas had an 18-to-1 ratio -- 23 percent better than A&M -- and the University of Michigan has a 12-to-1 ratio -- 92 percent better than A&M.” Young told The Eagle, “We would like to improve that [ratio] as quickly as we can, but it does take time to hire quality faculty, [and] it is also a tremendous financial challenge.”Continue reading
Minors, Guns & Affirmative Action
Race in college admissions was in the headlines again this week when the Justice Department announced it was “preparing to investigate and sue colleges over their affirmative action policies.” UT Austin is “likely well-shielded” from any changes to its admissions policies, since a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2016 approved of The University’s approach. And, though, most institutions in Texas don’t use affirmative action, those that do employ it may face scrutiny. “Officials at Texas State University and Texas A&M University, for example, said such factors play no role in admissions decisions. However, some schools — notably UT and A&M — go to considerable lengths to recruit applicants from heavily minority areas in Dallas, Houston, the Rio Grande Valley and other parts of the state.”Continue reading