Weekly Roundup: Harvey Edition

Texas universities have been on the front lines of Hurricane Harvey in many different ways since the storm hit. Some schools, like The University of Houston and UT’s Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, found themselves in the eye of the storm, bruised and battered, but unbroken. Other institutions, while dealing with displaced students and faculty, were helping through their research, innovation and technological advances. Consider the Texas A&M scientist who was on Good Morning America, to highlight the findings of tests he conducted on floodwater. “We saw elevated levels of E. coli,” Dr. Gentry told Good Morning America. “And this indicates the very likely presence of pathogenic bacteria, viruses and other types of organisms that could cause disease in some individuals.”
 
At UT Austin, researchers leveraged the power of the supercomputer dubbed “Lonestar 5” to help track hurricane Harvey. “As far as academic computing, this is the best available that we have to us in the country,” Clint Dawson, UT Professor, said of the supercomputer they are using. Researchers are able to create high-resolution data that federal and state agencies, such as TxDOT, NOAA and the National Hurricane Center, ultimately consult “when making decisions like where to evacuate and where to send resources.”
 
In response to Harvey, the higher education community in Texas launched the HELP Harvey Students fund, which has raised nearly $20,000 toward a goal of $300,000 to “help students successfully recover from Hurricane Harvey, return to their classes, and persist on their higher education learning pathway.” HELP stands for Higher Education Learning Pathways. The fund is being spearheaded by the Coordinating Board.
 
The Texas Tribune recently added higher education outcomes to its popular “Public Schools Explorer” research tool. The Tribune used data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Education Agency “to document the education outcomes of every student who started eighth grade in a Texas public school during eight academic years (1997 through 2005).” The combined data set shows that of the more than 300,000 students who begin 8th grade in 2005 (who are now approximately 25 years of age), just 20.9 percent received a degree or certificate from a Texas college or university within six years of anticipated high school graduation. These outcomes are tracked at county, regional and state levels.
 
The Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC) recently announce a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Greater Texas Foundation, T.L.L. Temple Foundation, and the Teagle Foundation to “launch an ambitious five-year effort to implement Texas Pathways reform across all 50 community college districts in the state.” The program will “help students choose their career paths and provide supports to help students reach employment and th next stage of their education.”

Week of September 3, 2017

Latest Updates

  • 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.”

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  • 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.

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