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

  • Dramatic Changes

    With higher education facing financial and public opinion headwinds, Rice University took a proactive step this week by unveiling a seven-point plan to demonstrate its value to the public. According to the university, the plan is partially in response to “dramatic changes” in higher education. According to the Houston Chronicle, “Rice University plans to double research funding, work more closely with Houston and make undergraduate education more affordable for middle-class students in its next decade, a recognition that even the city's most prestigious campus must show its worth in a cultural climate skeptical of higher education.”

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  • "You can’t legislate morality or civility"

    “No one should be shouted down … We need to put an end to that. But you can’t legislate morality or civility — I get that,” said Sen. Joan Huffman during a State Affairs Committee hearing on campus free speech issues last week. In the wake of a series of incidents on college campuses nationally, and here in Texas, where conservative speakers had been dis-invited or shouted down because of their political views, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick tasked the panel with coming up with solutions to “protect First Amendment rights and enhance the free speech environment on campus.” The panel was co-hosted by Texas State University and held in San Marcos. “Senators seemed to agree that no one has the right not to be offended,” according to the Austin American-Statesman account. Read more here on free speech conflicts on Texas campuses in 2017.

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