"The Systematic Defunding of Higher Education"

This week the Coalition issued a statement ahead of the Texas House vote on the budget. It read, in part, “Six years ago our Coalition came together to fight back against shortsighted so-called ‘reform’ efforts that would have damaged our educational institutions, undermined our state’s academic standing, and stymied Texas’ ability to fuel life-saving innovations and discoveries. Today, some members of the Texas Legislature have proposed shortsighted budget cuts that would realize those negative effects.” We urged lawmakers to pass a budget that would “soften the budgetary blow to our state’s institutions.”
 
Texas Exes leader, Will O’Hara, also made the case for not shortchanging higher education in an interview on Capital Tonight, referring to the Senate version of the budget as a “continuation of the systematic defunding of higher education.” He continued, “they are taking a short-term view … Top tier research institutions are the engine that fuels job creation, research, discoveries; it gives our students a cutting edge education, it gives them a competitive edge in the job market, it’s the reason why all these companies have moved to Texas in the last five years … all of that is on the line.”
 
Thankfully, the House ultimately passed a budget that is “more generous” than the Senate. “The final spending plan for higher education, of course, won’t be known until the closed-door sausage-making by a conference committee of senators and representatives grinds out the finished product.” The two chambers differ on funds for the Texas Grants financial aid program, special items and the Governor’s University Research Initiative, among other items. Budget conferees will be named in the coming weeks and negotiations will begin thereafter.
 
In addition to budget cuts across the board, the Senate also voted to freeze tuition this week. The bill, however, faces an uncertain future in the House. Speaker Straus recently referred to Texas tuition as a “pretty good bargain,” noting that students are applying to schools in record numbers. “The supply and demand seems to be working,” he said. Acknowledging concerns over the negative compound effect of budget cuts and a tuition freeze, Sen. Kel Seliger, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, said, “I am determined to do everything we can to keep those universities whole.”
 
This week, the top 10% rule was again the topic of debate in the Legislature. UT Austin President Fenves testified at a hearing on the bill, highlighting that while campus diversity may have increased, it may also have come from the state’s changing demographics, not just the law. “The Top 10 Percent Rule is a blunt instrument,” said UT-Austin President Greg Fenves. “Without the automatic admissions policy, he said, the university could factor in applicants’ academic interests, test scores, personal adversity and demographics for a larger proportion of its freshman class.”

Week of April 9, 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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