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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A New Chair

This week the UT System Board of Regents elected Sara Martinez Tucker as its new chair. Tucker, who was appointed to the Board by Gov. Abbott in 2015, was undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education in the George W. Bush Administration. Chancellor McRaven predicted Tucker would be a “fabulous” chairwoman. President Fenves said in a statement that, “Chair Tucker is a Distinguished Alumna of UT Austin, a former commencement speaker and one of our most dedicated Texas Exes. As a former U.S. Under Secretary of Education, she also has a deep knowledge of higher education and understands the support that UT System institutions need to accomplish their missions.” At the meeting the Board also affirmed $4.5 million in spending for the bid to operate Los Alamos National Laboratory, “a key part of the nation’s nuclear weapons complex.”

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Who got "edged out"?

UT Austin announced this week that it was further tightening an already competitive admissions process, cutting off automatic admission to the top six percent of Texas public high school students. The change is in response to increased demand for entry into the institution – applications have increased from 38,000 in 2013 to 51,000 in 2017. “Under state law, at least 75 percent of the first-year, in-state students at the Austin flagship must be automatically admitted. UT sets the percentage annually to meet that requirement. The remaining applicants, including those from other states and abroad, are considered under a so-called holistic review that takes race, ethnicity, grades, essays, leadership qualities and numerous other factors into account.”

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Latest Updates

  • Dramatic Changes

    With higher education facing financial and public opinion headwinds, Rice University took a proactive step this week by unveiling a seven-point plan to demonstrate its value to the public. According to the university, the plan is partially in response to “dramatic changes” in higher education. According to the Houston Chronicle, “Rice University plans to double research funding, work more closely with Houston and make undergraduate education more affordable for middle-class students in its next decade, a recognition that even the city's most prestigious campus must show its worth in a cultural climate skeptical of higher education.”

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  • "You can’t legislate morality or civility"

    “No one should be shouted down … We need to put an end to that. But you can’t legislate morality or civility — I get that,” said Sen. Joan Huffman during a State Affairs Committee hearing on campus free speech issues last week. In the wake of a series of incidents on college campuses nationally, and here in Texas, where conservative speakers had been dis-invited or shouted down because of their political views, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick tasked the panel with coming up with solutions to “protect First Amendment rights and enhance the free speech environment on campus.” The panel was co-hosted by Texas State University and held in San Marcos. “Senators seemed to agree that no one has the right not to be offended,” according to the Austin American-Statesman account. Read more here on free speech conflicts on Texas campuses in 2017.

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