Enrollment Up ... And Down

“It's a good time to be a Texas college or university.” That was the analysis of the San Antonio Express-News data team, which took a look at a new study showing Texas’ higher education enrollment had increased by 3.75 percent from just two years ago. Texas is said to be “bucking” a national trend, which saw universities in Michigan, New York and California losing between 18,000 and 20,000 students each. Changes in the national birth rate mean most states will continue to lose students as the college age population shrinks. But not Texas. “By 2020, there will be about 3,000 fewer public high school graduates than there were in 2013,” according to one study cited in a Houston Chronicle article. “But in that time period, the number of public high school graduates in Texas is projected to grow by several percentage points per year, amounting to a 22.6 percent growth between the 2011-12 academic year and 2024-25.”

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Is state funding for higher ed too high?

No, not according to most Texans. Few Texas voters believe education spending is too high according to a statewide poll of registered voters released this week. According to the Texas Tribune, “36 percent — said the state spends too little on its colleges and universities, while 17 percent said the state is spending too much.” When it came to the question of reducing state funding for higher education, 54 percent oppose reduction, while 33 percent support it. A plurality oppose tuition re-regulation that would consolidate power to set tuition rates with the Texas Legislature and take that authority away from individual institutions. A full summary of the poll can be downloaded here.

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True or False?

True or false: Tuition and fees at Sam Houston State University, the University of Houston, Texas State University and four other public schools in the state exceed the sticker price for the University of Texas at Austin. The answer, surprisingly, is true.” That’s the lead of an Austin American-Statesman piece on tuition and fees at Texas public institutions. UT Austin not only has the lowest tuition of those institutions, but since tuition deregulation has had the lowest percentage increase in tuition. “UT-Dallas is the most expensive of the state’s 38 public universities, with tuition and fees totaling $5,903 for the fall 2016 semester … UT-Austin’s price tag for academic charges was $5,046, eighth-highest. Texas A&M University was fourth-highest at $5,225. … The statewide average was $4,374.” The cost of tuition will be a continued point of interest with lawmakers over the interim and into the next Legislative Session.

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How can you save over $20,000 on college costs?

“How can you save over $20,000 on college costs? Graduate on time.” That’s the analysis from a Wall Street Journal piece this week. Only 40% of full-time students at four-year schools graduate on time, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Education. That’s why universities across the country, including UT Austin, are focused on using data to help address the challenge – and find a solution. Using data from academic transcripts and personal records, UT Austin has identified the 25% of students least likely to graduate on time and has enrolled them in the University Leadership Network, which, in addition to requiring students to attend weekly seminars and do internships on campus, incentivizes students for making progress toward their degrees.

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Our Worst Fears

Last Monday marked the final day of a Texas Legislative Session that has been characterized by more tension and controversy than usual. And, while higher education seemed to be a target of lawmakers’ ire early on, in the final accounting our state’s Tier One institutions escaped without the severe budget cuts that had been threatened. As the Texas Tribune put it, “university leaders’ worst fears never materialized.” On Saturday, both the House and Senate passed SB 1, otherwise known as the budget. After threats of a nearly 10% budget cut, UT Austin ended up with a 3% increase.

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Latest Updates

  • "A workhorse for our nation’s scientists and engineers"

    Saying it was “among our biggest challenges,” this week Texas A&M President Michael K. Young indicated that lowering the faculty-to-student ratio was a top priority. While the institution has experienced tremendous growth in its student body, hiring of faculty has not kept pace. Last fall, Texas A&M’s ratio was 23-to-1. “As a comparison, Young noted the University of Texas had an 18-to-1 ratio -- 23 percent better than A&M -- and the University of Michigan has a 12-to-1 ratio -- 92 percent better than A&M.” Young told The Eagle, “We would like to improve that [ratio] as quickly as we can, but it does take time to hire quality faculty, [and] it is also a tremendous financial challenge.”

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  • Minors, Guns & Affirmative Action

    Race in college admissions was in the headlines again this week when the Justice Department announced it was “preparing to investigate and sue colleges over their affirmative action policies.” UT Austin is “likely well-shielded” from any changes to its admissions policies, since a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2016 approved of The University’s approach. And, though, most institutions in Texas don’t use affirmative action, those that do employ it may face scrutiny. “Officials at Texas State University and Texas A&M University, for example, said such factors play no role in admissions decisions. However, some schools — notably UT and A&M — go to considerable lengths to recruit applicants from heavily minority areas in Dallas, Houston, the Rio Grande Valley and other parts of the state.”

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