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.
 
In an effort to train and keep doctors in Texas to address a growing population coupled with a shortage of doctors, the State has kept med school tuition at “bargain” rates and invested in new medical schools in recent years. According to a Texas Tribune piece this week, “Texas ranks 47th in physician-to-patient ratio. The state has often recruited foreign medical graduates to fill shortages, with about 14,000 currently in practice, according to the Texas Medical Association. But that’s not enough, so the state has also invested heavily over the last several years to build new medical schools.” But keeping doctors in Texas after they’ve gone through medical school has dual challenges. First, the lack of residency slots, which the State is trying to address through a $97 million earmark in the 2018-2019 budget, and second, the unintended consequence that lower tuition “often gives young doctors more flexibility to travel the country looking for their ideal residency instead of staying close to home.”
 
President Trump tapped Texas for energy expertise this week when he announced that Linda Capuano, a fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy would lead the Energy Information Administration (EIA). “The EIA, a division of the Department of Energy, is one of the world's most prominent providers of data and analysis on the world's energy sector, tracking everything from oil inventories to the growth of solar panels on the power grid.”
 
In an effort to translate scientific discovery into real world implications, Texas A&M took a look at the significance of the 2017 Nobel Prize winners at a special event on campus this week. Six professors took turns “touching on topics ranging from behavioral economics to observing the collision of two black holes.” According to The Eagle, “the speakers each found a way to present the work of the recent laureates that was understandable to the general public as well as fellow members of the A&M community who attended.”
 
This week UT Austin named Bill Williams as “Inventor of the Year.” The award is given to those who have a “significant impact in commercialized technologies” which Williams has demonstrated by “an impressive list of 35 issued and pending patents in the fields of drug delivery, processing and biotechnology.” Many of his research interests center on novel drug delivery systems. On Twitter, UT President Greg Fenves congratulated Williams for his “400+ publications, several pharmaceutical companies & a career of world-changing research.”

Week of November 5, 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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