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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Home Stretch

Bills were killed or passed at a furious pace this week in the mad dash to finish out the Texas Legislative Session. A number of those bills impact higher education but none quite as drastically as the budget, which passed late into Sunday morning after concessions were made from both House and Senate negotiators. The final budget dips into the Rainy Day Fund for $1 billion, and employs an “accounting trick” to delay transportation funding approved in 2015, for the remaining shortfall of nearly $2 billion.

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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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