And so it begins ...

Happy New Year and first day of the Texas Legislature! Here’s your first Roundup of higher education news in 2019. With the legislative session now underway, we’ll be sure to keep you updated on the latest higher ed happenings under the pink dome.
 
The Alcalde, the official publication of the Texas Exes, took a comprehensive look at public university funding in Texas ahead of the 86th Legislature. The pieces covers a wide range of topics from the effects of tuition deregulation to funding formulas for higher education – topics that will no doubt be front and center as lawmakers begin their biennial gathering.
 
This week Texas Comptroller Glenn Hager told lawmakers they would have a boost of 8.1 percent in state funds to budget for public programs, a projected $119.1 billion for the biennium. However, he warned lawmakers they need to set aside $211 million in the next biennium to cover a projected shortfall in the Texas Tomorrow Fund – the original name of the state’s prepaid tuition fund. The fund closed in 2003 but still has contracts that won’t be fulfilled until 2040. The prepaid tuition plan is guaranteed by the state so lawmakers are on the hook for the funding.
 
Former state Sen. Kevin Eltife was named the new chairman of the board of the UT System in December. "I'm extremely honored to be named chair," he said in an interview after the meeting. "I hope I leave the place better than I found it." Sara Martinez Tucker, who left her post two years ahead of schedule, stepped down as chair following the meeting to let the new board leadership be “in place for the entire” legislative session.
 
KUT, the NPR station in Austin, recently featured Dr. Ed Burger, Southwestern University President, on its podcast “Higher Ed.” Burger addresses the question: does it really matter where you go to college? Listen here for his answer.
 
A recent study by the American Educational Research Association looked at the benefits of guaranteed admissions programs (like Texas top 10% law), and found it “made high-talent, low-income students more likely than they historically have been to apply to the flagship universities.” An Inside Higher Ed story on the study points to the certainty and transparency of a guaranteed admissions program as an advantage to these students and thus, ultimately helpful in promoting diversity. However, Dr. Jane Arnold Lincove, one of the report’s authors noted, the “Top Ten Percent Plan is only successful at creating more diverse student bodies at Texas public institutions because the state has really segregated high schools.” She added that the “downside to the state admissions policy because is that it has to rely on continued segregation.”
 
In December, West Texas A&M broke ground on two large animal veterinary facilities in Canyon. "This investment -- and the buildings we are breaking ground on here today -- ensure the Texas A&M University System continues to not only meet but exceed the needs of this region and the state in the future,” said Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp.
 
UT System Chancellor James Milliken has been featured in several profiles since joining the System last fall. A recent Alcalde piece features a Q&A in which Milliken highlights how he’s “learning all that he can about the state before the 2019 legislative session begins.” The Nebraska native moved to Texas last fall following his selection. The Austin American-Statesman interview with Milliken noted how he has visited with Texas governor Greg Abbott and worked to reach each of the 14 University of Texas campuses. To hear from Milliken in person, the Texas Tribune will host a TribLive event with him on Thursday, January 24th. Information on how to attend or watch the livestream can be found here.
 
In December, Bloomberg News announced the UT System endowment had hit $31 billion, making it the country’s second largest, behind only Harvard. The endowment was “fueled by mineral rights from land it controls in the Permian Basin. It’s an area bigger than Delaware that has emerged in the past decade as the world’s fastest growing oil-producing region due to advances in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.”
 
Calendar Alert: Orange & Maroon Legislative Day is scheduled for Tuesday, February 5th. If you’d like to join Aggies and Longhorns in advocating for higher ed at the Legislature, please sign up today.

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