Civil and Productive Discourse

While the “massive state funding cuts Texas higher education officials dreaded never materialized” during the legislative session, institutions of higher education have been busy further tightening belts and cutting budgets in anticipation of changes to funding in the future. According to a rundown by the Texas Tribune, Renu Khator has asked U of H academic departments to cut 2.5 percent from their budgets. “University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves ordered a $20 million spending cut, which amounts to a 2 percent reduction. Texas A&M University administrators are sticking with a planned 1.5 percent cut, while Texas Tech University departments were told to trim 1 percent from their budgets.”
 
In an editorial published in a number of statewide papers, UT Austin assistant vice president of research and policy, Richard J. Reddick, highlighted how recent polling by Pew showing a decline in support for higher education means we actually need universities now more than ever. “More of us need to understand that universities are learning organizations that are often at the forefront of longstanding social challenges. … Civil and productive discourse is essential to the development of critical thinking, and hopefully the solutions to problems that bedevil our society will originate when people engage, debate and analyze different perspectives.”
 
An in-depth Texas Monthly profile of Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp chronicled his political and professional life that led him to his current role. The article walked through the changes he’s made at A&M since taking the leadership helm including opening a law school, privatizing campus services, engaging in public-private partnerships and more recently, actively engaging the Aggie faithful in political advocacy during the Texas Legislative Session. “… Sharp and his team went to DEFCON 1. The chancellor got on the phone, working his political connections in Austin. A&M’s team of lobbyists went to work on state lawmakers. And Sharp played his trump card: A&M’s network of more than 400,000 fanatically loyal alumni …”
 
The Houston Chronicle noted that the state of Texas is a leader when it comes to “reverse transfers” in higher education. The practice helps ensure that students who move on from community to four-year colleges without finishing an associates’ degree, can retroactively go back and apply their four-year college credits to an associates. The National Student Clearinghouse says there are 2 million students nationwide who attended college for two years between 2003 and 2013 without earning a degree. And, “78 percent of students who transfer from a community college to a university do so without a degree.” While some communities, like El Paso, have programs in place to ensure coordination happens, the biggest hurdle to ensuring students get the reverse transfer credits they’ve earned is “limited fiscal and human resources and no mechanism for consistent communication between universities and students.”
 
This week the UT System Board of Regents named Taylor Eighmy as the next president of UTSA. Eighmy comes to Texas by way of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville where he is a professor of civil and environmental engineering as well as the vice chancellor for research and engagement. Chairman Paul Foster said of the move, “Given UTSA’s growing reputation and continued pursuit of Tier Oneuniversity status, Eighmy is an exceptional choice to lead this remarkable institution as it strives to reach even greater heights.”

Week of July 30, 2017

Latest Updates

  • Does Texas owe you $1,000?

    Does Texas owe you $1,000? Since 1997, the state has incentivized the efficient completion of a bachelor’s degree by offering a $1,000 rebate for students who complete their degree in four years and take limited hours courses outside of their major. An Austin American-Statesman article on the incentive, however, found that many university students are unaware of the rebate. Institutions estimate how much they will dole out in rebates annually, and request those funds of the legislature. UT Austin awarded more rebates than any other university who responded to the Statesman’s inquiry. Students at all 37 of the state’s public institutions are eligible for the rebates.

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  • "Break a few molds"

    It’s graduation season for many institutions of higher education across the state. Here’s a look at some of the highlights from recent commencements. Texas A&M commissioned 138 Corps of Cadets members – the most from a graduating class in three decades – as Army officers at its commencement this year. UT Austin Distinguished Alum and Director of the Defense Health Agency, Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, M.D. led her alma mater’s commencement telling graduates “it is okay to break a few molds.” Jason Jenkins, a Texas Tech Outstanding Alumni winner and Senior Vice President of Communications and Community Affairs for the Miami Dolphins, encouraged Tech graduates to effect change in the “changing political and social climates” they are about to enter. The University of Houston released this video with highlights of its commencement featuring Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who admonished students to “live their life in such a way that whatever you receive from this university, your parents, from others, that you find a way to share it with someone else.”

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