Who got "edged out"?
UT Austin announced this week that it was further tightening an already competitive admissions process, cutting off automatic admission to the top six percent of Texas public high school students. The change is in response to increased demand for entry into the institution – applications have increased from 38,000 in 2013 to 51,000 in 2017. “Under state law, at least 75 percent of the first-year, in-state students at the Austin flagship must be automatically admitted. UT sets the percentage annually to meet that requirement. The remaining applicants, including those from other states and abroad, are considered under a so-called holistic review that takes race, ethnicity, grades, essays, leadership qualities and numerous other factors into account.”
This week the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a $35 million grant to form an engineering research center, “The Precise Advanced Technologies and Health Systems for Underserved Populations,” which will be based at Texas A&M, and jointly operated with researchers from Rice University, Florida International University and the University of California at Los Angeles. The work will focus on “improving health care for underserved populations in areas such as rural South Texas and urban Los Angeles and Miami.” In a separate NSF announcement, A&M will also be the beneficiary of $2.3 million in additional federal grant funding to “revolutionize engineering education.”
The new U.S. News and World Report rankings came out this week. While UT-Austin “edged out” SMU and Texas A&M University surpassed Baylor University, Rice remains Texas’ top-ranked school according to this ranking. It comes in as the 14thbest school in the nation – the only Texas school to enter the top 50. The entire rankings can be viewed in their entirety here.
As Harvey’s floodwaters recede, Texas is continuing to grapple with the impact of the storm on all aspects of life, including higher education. The Higher Education Coordinating Board estimates that “500,000 students are enrolled in Texas schools from counties affected by the hurricane.” The Houston Chronicle detailed what universities are doing to help students address concerns – from emotional trauma to issues with financing their education. “This is an unprecedented event,” said Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Commissioner Raymund Paredes, adding that he hopes students resist temptation to drop out to work. “We expect some impact (to graduation rates), but exactly what it will be, we don't know.”
This week, UT Austin President Greg Fenves gave the 2017 State of the University Address. He summed up the mission of the university this way: “We serve our community. We improve lives. We strive for progress. We transcend the status quo. Our efforts take time. They take investment. They take passion, imagination and creativity. But that’s what’s required of us as a leading flagship university, and we embrace the challenge.” His full remarks can be read here.
Week of September 19, 2017
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.”Continue reading
"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.Continue reading