"My next goal as governor is to reunite the Texas-Texas A&M football rivalry."

A poll released last week showed that “many Texans see merits to earning a college degree or certificate, believing that higher education has the potential to improve future salaries and quality of life.” This is a welcome finding considering recent national data showing support for public higher education has been on the decline. The poll, commissioned by WGU Texas, whose parent university is Western Governors University Texas, also found that “Texans have an overall positive view of state-run colleges and universities,” yet they are concerned with the lack of state investment in higher education.

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Courting Rick Perry

To underscore Texas’ role as a leading national academic and R&D powerhouse, the Texas A&M and UT Systems will both be competing for a contract to run the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The lab is the “birthplace of the nation’s nuclear arsenal and part of the portfolio overseen by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, a graduate of A&M.” Last month the UT System Regents approved moving forward on a bid, and this week the Texas A&M Board of Regents did the same. M. Katherine Banks, A&M’s vice chancellor and dean of engineering, will lead A&M’s effort. While she said the UT System didn’t respond to A&M’s overtures for a collaboration, she acknowledged the competition could be a good thing for the state. “This could double the chances that the state of Texas is represented on the winning team.” The $2.2 billion contract expires next September after federal officials said current operators (led by the University of California) “failed to earn high enough performance reviews.”

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Apples and Oranges

Texas A&M is expanding into Houston with a recent purchase of an “18-story office building for a specialized engineering medicine program in collaboration” with Houston Methodist Hospital, according to the Houston Chronicle. The program, called “EnMed,” aims to attract 50 medical students annually with dual degrees in engineering and medicine, starting in July 2019. “The program expects to field requests from Texas Medical Center doctors who need engineers to create devices that will improve health care delivery, such as a pacifier that measures babies' dehydration. The goal will be for every graduate to invent an innovative device during the program. The announcement raised some eyebrows after a UT System expansion into Houston was shut down by lawmakers. State Sen. John Whitmire, a vocal opponent of the UT expansion, said the two land deals were "apples and oranges."

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Record Enrollment

At an event in Killeen this week the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board unveiled progress toward the states’ 60x30TX plan, which “aims to ensure 60 percent of adults, ages 25 to 34, will earn a college certificate or degree by 2030.” The number of Texans with degrees or certificates currently is just under 40 percent. Increasing this number is critical to the state’s future as some “estimates have shown that 65 percent of all new jobs by the year 2020 will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school.”

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A Vote to Bring Back UT-A&M Football Game

In a recognition of Texas’ leadership and innovation, this week the U.S. Navy awarded UT Austin a $1.1 billion contract that will create phenomenal learning opportunities for students and generate jobs and economic growth for the state, while strengthening our national security. “The research performed and advancements made at The University of Texas at Austin are unparalleled,” said Gov. Greg Abbott. “I am proud of the work that is already underway at Applied Research Laboratories at UT, and I am looking forward to their continued contributions to our national security.”

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Latest Updates

  • The Texas Paradox

    “We’re getting better, but we’re not getting better fast enough.” That’s how Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes summed up the state of higher education attainment in Texas at his annual address. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Paredes told the audience that “we won’t come anywhere close to achieving the goals of 60 by 30” based on where we are right now. Our fastest growing population is segment – young Hispanics – are the key to future economic success, according to Paredes, but are also our “least well educated.” He called it the “Texas paradox of the moment.” Among his proposed solutions were outcomes-based funding, which would link funding to graduation rates, as well as expanded academic advising and “competency-based courses that let students progress at their own pace and adopt other innovations.”

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  • "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 …”

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