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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Civil and Productive Discourse

While the “massive state funding cuts Texas higher education officials dreaded never materialized” during the legislative session, institutions of higher education have been busy further tightening belts and cutting budgets in anticipation of changes to funding in the future. According to a rundown by the Texas Tribune, Renu Khator has asked U of H academic departments to cut 2.5 percent from their budgets. “University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves ordered a $20 million spending cut, which amounts to a 2 percent reduction. Texas A&M University administrators are sticking with a planned 1.5 percent cut, while Texas Tech University departments were told to trim 1 percent from their budgets.”

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The Power of Higher Ed

A weekend Houston Chronicle editorial highlighted the “Power of higher ed” noting that many Texans rely on the innovations and graduates of institutions of higher education – often without realizing it. “Too often taxpayers don't connect the dots between the valuable work universities and colleges perform and its impact on our daily lives. It's worth reminding voters that if you go to a veterinarian in Texas, chances are she earned a degree from Texas A&M University. If you have certain types of cancer you have renewed hope thanks to the pioneering work done at University of Texas' MD Anderson Cancer Center. If you send your child to a public school in Houston, his teacher is likely to have graduated from University of Houston or Texas Southern University.” These important reminders about how higher education impacts lives well beyond those obtaining a degree are worth noting – and promoting – particularly when some policymakers question the value of public funding of higher education.

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The Board is Fantastic

This week the UT System Board of Regents met for a retreat and among the anticipated topics of discussion was the future of the System’s chancellor, Bill McRaven. McRaven is nearing the end of a three-year contract and his future with the System has been uncertain. “A majority of the board wants a smaller, leaner system,” said Regent R. Steven Hicks recently. “Hopefully it’s something Chancellor McRaven can support. I think he’s a world-class leader, and I’m hopeful we can all come to mutual agreement on where we want the UT System to go.” Chancellor’s Council member, Gordon Appleman, recently told the Statesman that McRaven “brings credibility and innovative thought and courage to the job that’s absolutely needed.” The board adjourned on Thursday, however, without discussing the matter. The “board is fantastic” McRaven told reporters after the meeting ended. “We have not had a discussion … That will come in time.”

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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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Latest Updates

  • 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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