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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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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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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