The Budget, McRaven, SXSW & Rick Perry

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has encouraged his chamber’s budget writer to dip into the so-called “Rainy Day Fund” to address the state’s budget challenges. This week House Appropriations Chair Rep. John Zerwas filed House Bill 2 that would access $1.4 billion from the fund. “I believe this is a better option than leaving $12 billion sitting in the bank while making deep cuts to higher education and significantly increasing health care premiums on retired teachers,” said Straus. “Our approach keeps spending low but also recognizes some very important priorities and some very real obligations.”
 
In other budget news this week, Gov. Abbott’s “signature higher education project, which aims to lure top researchers to Texas universities, is at risk of being defunded by the Legislature.” The Governor’s University Research Initiative (GURI), for which Abbott had requested $40 million, was not funded in either the House or Senate budgets. The initial round of funds to launch the program came from the closure of Gov. Perry’s “Emerging Technology Fund” and was used to hire 11 top faculty to our state’s institutions. Abbott is fighting for the funding, and will host a reception at the Governor’s mansion this week to feature some of the researchers GURI has attracted.
 
This week, UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven announced an end to plans to expand the System into Houston. The land purchase had been the subject of much consternation from the Houston delegation of the Texas Legislature, and had become a distraction from other priorities the System and its campuses were focused on this Session. In a letter to McRaven, Board Chairman Paul Foster said of the move, “Your actions as a strong servant leader to direct full attention to helping each of our presidents succeed, and your willingness to recalibrate and adjust priorities, are very much appreciated.”
 
From March 10-19, tens of thousands of people will descend on Austin for the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festival. Our state’s flagship institutions will bring their best and brightest to the interactive showcase to participate in what has become one of the world’s top venues for breakthrough innovation and technology. UT at SXSW will feature two days of panels, parties and exhibitions that will highlight the research, innovation and thought leadership of UT's faculty, students and programs. Texas A&M is joining SXSW for the first time and will host Texas A&M House to showcase art, science and technology from the school’s leading minds.
 
This week the Senate voted to confirm former Texas Governor Rick Perry as the U.S. Secretary of Energy. The Department has an important role to play in doling out federal R&D dollars, which could benefit Texas institutions if Perry were to steer projects toward his home state. The Department “runs the national laboratories, sets appliance standards, hands out loans and grants for basic research and early stage energy technologies from carbon capture and storage to battery technology” according to a Washington Post story on the confirmation.

Week of March 5, 2017

Latest Updates

  • True or False?

    True or false: Tuition and fees at Sam Houston State University, the University of Houston, Texas State University and four other public schools in the state exceed the sticker price for the University of Texas at Austin. The answer, surprisingly, is true.” That’s the lead of an Austin American-Statesman piece on tuition and fees at Texas public institutions. UT Austin not only has the lowest tuition of those institutions, but since tuition deregulation has had the lowest percentage increase in tuition. “UT-Dallas is the most expensive of the state’s 38 public universities, with tuition and fees totaling $5,903 for the fall 2016 semester … UT-Austin’s price tag for academic charges was $5,046, eighth-highest. Texas A&M University was fourth-highest at $5,225. … The statewide average was $4,374.” The cost of tuition will be a continued point of interest with lawmakers over the interim and into the next Legislative Session.

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  • How can you save over $20,000 on college costs?

    “How can you save over $20,000 on college costs? Graduate on time.” That’s the analysis from a Wall Street Journal piece this week. Only 40% of full-time students at four-year schools graduate on time, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Education. That’s why universities across the country, including UT Austin, are focused on using data to help address the challenge – and find a solution. Using data from academic transcripts and personal records, UT Austin has identified the 25% of students least likely to graduate on time and has enrolled them in the University Leadership Network, which, in addition to requiring students to attend weekly seminars and do internships on campus, incentivizes students for making progress toward their degrees.

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