"Always forward, ever onward."

A Washington Post piece with the provocative headline, “Elitists, Crybabies and Junky Degrees” this week highlighted a growing political divide over higher education in America. The piece attempts to explain “rising conservative anger at American universities” and their concerted efforts to under- or de-fund institutions. The push appears to be working. “To the alarm of many educators, nearly every state has cut funding to public colleges and universities since the 2008 financial crisis. Adjusted for inflation, states spent $5.7 billion less on public higher education last year than in 2008, even though they were educating more than 800,000 additional students …”
 
With “long-term declines in per-student state appropriations and inflation” a contributing factor, all but one of the six systems in the Texas higher education ecosystem have announced likely increases in tuition for 2018. Texas Tech has not yet made a decision. Recognizing the political dynamics of an increase, former state lawmaker and current UT System Regent Kevin Eltife cautioned, “I think the rollout is more important than anything … if they [school presidents] are going to recommend a tuition increase, they better have a real need.”
 
In an editorial penned for Inside Higher Ed, UT Austin Professor Steven Mintz highlighted the many ways in which higher education is changing to meet new societal and economic demands, as well as evolving student needs. He argued the case against institutions outsourcing core functions and responsibilities – citing the loss of valuable data and learning opportunities as a cost – and argued for centralized innovation units. He wrote, “Higher education is changing in fundamental ways and something will be lost as it evolves. But something will be gained that doesn’t yet exist. ‘Semper et deinceps’ [St.] Augustine proclaims: Always forward, ever onward. Mintz was the Executive Director of the UT System's Institute for Transformational Learning from 2012 through 2017.
 
“Texas A&M University professor Andrew Dessler is among 396 members to be honored as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science this year.” Dessler is a professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and the Earl F. Cook professor of geosciences. The AAAS aims to "advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people." Dessler is the author of The Science and Politics of Global Climate Change: A Guide to the Debate, a book he wrote after spending time in Washington, D.C. and becoming “aware of a profound lack of understanding among policymakers and the general public about how science works and how to interpret the conflicting claims one often hears in policy debates.”
 
Responding to a dramatic dip in international enrollment, UT Dallas recently produced a video called “You Are Welcome Here” that welcomes prospective students to the campus, emphasizing campus diversity by having students speak in multiple languages. More than 6,000 international students call UT Dallas home. They make up nearly a quarter of the student population, more than half of its graduate student population and account for a third of overall student growth, which is up by 60% in the last decade according to the Texas Tribune. UT Dallas president Richard Benson recently told the UT System Board of Regents that increasing international students was one of his top five priorities. “We always want to fill our class with the best and the brightest students,” he said.
 
After a nearly year-long search, the Texas Exes have a new Executive Director. Chuck Harris, currently the president of Netspend in Austin, will become the seventh leader of the 130-year old association of ex-students.

Week of November 26, 2017

Latest Updates

  • “So far Texas has been incomparable.”

    “So far Texas has been incomparable.” That was how newly minted UT System Chancellor James Milliken reflected on his first two weeks on the job when he spoke recently at the Texas Tribune Festival. In discussing what he plans to bring to the role, he said: “The foundation of my philosophy about public higher education is that talent is equally distributed across every demographic—whether it’s wealth, race, ethnicity, nationality, or zip code.” A recap of the festival, which also featured conversations about higher ed policy by Texas lawmakers, can be viewed here.

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  • The Longest Lecture

    The fall semester started with the surprise departure of a chancellor at one university system and the arrival of a new chancellor at another. Robert Duncan, the Texas Tech System chancellor, stepped down on August 13th, but rumors about the “why” of his departure continue. Meanwhile, the UT System officially welcomed James Milliken as its new chancellor. “You can't do anything important in public higher education without a partnership, a close partnership, with the leadership of state government, and frankly a partnership with the philanthropic community," said Milliken. "It is one of the essential roles of the job,” he said. “I've been successful at that in other places; I certainly hope that I'm successful at it in Texas.”

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