The Power of Higher Ed

A weekend Houston Chronicle editorial highlighted the “Power of higher ed” noting that many Texans rely on the innovations and graduates of institutions of higher education – often without realizing it. “Too often taxpayers don't connect the dots between the valuable work universities and colleges perform and its impact on our daily lives. It's worth reminding voters that if you go to a veterinarian in Texas, chances are she earned a degree from Texas A&M University. If you have certain types of cancer you have renewed hope thanks to the pioneering work done at University of Texas' MD Anderson Cancer Center. If you send your child to a public school in Houston, his teacher is likely to have graduated from University of Houston or Texas Southern University.” These important reminders about how higher education impacts lives well beyond those obtaining a degree are worth noting – and promoting – particularly when some policymakers question the value of public funding of higher education.
 
new study has tracked the salaries of UT System graduates and found that UT bachelor’s degree holders “earn almost twice as much as similarly-aged Texas high school-educated workers and more than other bachelor’s degree holders within Texas and across the United States.” Stephanie Bond Huie, UT System’s vice chancellor for strategic initiatives, said: ”Leveraging this data so new and prospective students can learn from the choices of students who have gone before them not only demonstrates accountability and transparency, but also shows the value of investing in higher education.” The full report can be viewed here. The report also finds that the choice of major matters when it comes to earnings.
 
While the special session of the Texas Legislature is now in full swing, there is no focus on higher education on the call. One lawmaker disagrees with that choice, and wrote an editorial in the Dallas Morning News calling on Gov. Abbott to add student debt to the agenda. State Rep Helen Giddings wrote, “There is no greater vehicle for economic opportunity than a college degree. There is no more fertile soil for innovation and self-discovery than a university classroom. However, access to that dream has become more and more costly in time and in money. … The future of Texas depends on how we respond to this crisis. For us to reach our full potential, we must allow these students and families to meet theirs. We have been called for another session, and we must not waste our time on trivial disputes. Let's work together, shoot for the stars, and give our students the future they deserve.”
 
The Provost at Texas A&M was removed from her post after an internal audit found conflicts of interest with her husband’s company’s business agreements with the university. President Michael K. Young took action in response to a whistleblower’s complaint. Watson disputes the findings.
 
Governor Abbott has selected Annie Jones, a McAllen native and current graduate and law student at The University of Texas at Austin for the role of student representative on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
 
NPR sat down with Mitch Daniels, the former governor of Indiana who now serves as president of Purdue University. He made headlines for the acquisition of the for-profit Kaplan University earlier this year which he says is part of the institutions “broader innovation agenda to offer students a more affordable, accessible, world-class education, says Daniels, though the deal's critics saw things differently.” His “candid” take on the future of higher education can be read here.

Week of July 24, 2017

Latest Updates

  • "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.”

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  • 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.”

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