"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

  • “A clever political move”

    Calling it “a clever political move,” the San Antonio Express-News editorial board criticized state lawmakers for turning tuition-setting authority to regents, saying Texas parents have lawmakers to thank for higher tuition bills this fall. “State lawmakers know they can shortchange higher education because the university boards will feel obligated to make up the difference with tuition. An added bonus of the arrangement is that it allows the regents, appointees of the governor, to take the heat off elected officials, who can claim no direct involvement in the rising cost of a college education. But, in truth, cutting state funding for higher education directly causes tuition increases. Denial is a sham, and pointing fingers at regents is an evasion of responsibility.”

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  • Implosion

    A longhorn and leading former member of the Trump Administration is being considered to head The University of Texas System, according to media reports. Rex Tillerson, who was ousted as Secretary of State just two weeks ago, is “open” to the idea of becoming the next UT System Chancellor per a Wall Street Journal report. Tillerson gave a farewell address at the State Department this week and his final official day on the job is March 31. Chancellor Bill McRaven will step down as Chancellor in May. “Rex is a solid citizen, very ethical, straightforward, and straight talking,” said ExxonMobil general counsel Charles Matthews to Texas Monthly. “He brings great integrity to whatever he does, and if he were chosen he would be a very, very solid choice.”

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