A Thumbs Up
Our thoughts and prayers are with all those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. You can help those affected by visiting www.RedCross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Or, visit www.HelpSalvationArmy.org or text STORM to 51555.
On Wednesday, the Texas A&M System Board of Directors gave a thumbs up to extending Chancellor John Sharp’s contract. “From day one he has been a bold, innovative, visionary leader and he has really made a difference for the A&M System,” said Regent Phil Adams. The move paves the way for the board’s chairman to negotiate and finalize a deal with Sharp, which is expected to stay consistent with his current salary of $900,000 – $1.3 million with benefits.
The UT System Board of Regents voted unanimously to select Peter W.T. Pisters, MD, MHCM, as the sole finalist for the position of president at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center. “The search for a new leader began earlier this year when Ron DePinho, M.D. announced he would be stepping down as president. Marshall Hicks, M.D., will continue serving as interim president of MD Anderson until Pisters’ appointment as president is finalized by the Board of Regents.”
The fracking boom has been a boon to the Permanent University Fund (PUF), which supports an endowment for the Texas A&M and University of Texas Systems. Consider that the UT System received $352 million from the fund in 2011 – this year it will receive $603 million. Last week the Texas Tribune produced an in-depth piece on how and where that money gets spent.
This week, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities announced that UT Austin was one of the finalists for its 2017 “Project Degree Completion Award.” The prize works to “identify, recognize, and reward institutions that employ innovative approaches to improve retention and degree completion.” UT Austin’s four-year graduation rate increased more than 10 percent over a four-year period.
After the departure of Texas A&M’s provost Karan Watson over conflict-of-interest issues with her husband’s business, the A&M Board of Regents this week voted totighten rules to avoid such controversies in the future. “Under the new rules, chief financial officers, vice chancellors, chief auditors, chief compliance officers, provosts, vice presidents, deans, deputy agency directors, associate agency directors and others with equivalent job duties are prohibited from contracting for goods and services from vendors if they or their close family members have a financial interest in those vendors.”
The UT System Board of Regents this week greenlighted an effort by System leaders to pursue management of the contract for Los Alamos National Lab, “the nation’s most preeminent national laboratory in the areas of nuclear weapons, nuclear nonproliferation, safeguards and security, environmental management, energy and other programs.” The University of California System has the contract now, and has been involved in management of the Lab for more than 70 years.
Week of August 27, 2017
The Next Spindletop?
A recent national survey found that international student enrollment is declining in the U.S. This echoes an earlier study by the Houston Chronicle, which found sharp drops in international enrollment at Texas institutions this fall. In fact, “applications to Texas' four-year public universities plummeted year over year by at least 10,000.” Among the contributing factors, according to the study, were the “social and political climate” in the U.S., as well as visa delays and cost. As reporter Lindsay Ellis noted, “International students pay way more money to attend state schools, boosting campus budgets amid uncertain state appropriations.”Continue reading
Tax Cuts, Med Schools & Trump Appoints a Texan
The tax plan unveiled in the U.S. House of Representatives this week includes a number of proposed changes to education tax credits, deductions and benefits that would impact Texans – and especially private universities in Texas with high-dollar endowments. According to a Dallas Morning News review, “schools like SMU in University Park, Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and Rice University in Houston — all with endowments of $1 billion or more — would feel a direct impact.” The schools would be subject to a 1.4 percent excise tax on their net investment income. “In 2014 alone, that trio [of private schools in Texas] would have taken a combined $6.8 million hit.” For students and families, the plan would impact tax credits associated with student loan repayments and would also fold three existing higher-education tax credits into one. The Washington Post published a detailed analysis of the key provisions impacting higher education.Continue reading