For higher education followers, one of the great lingering mysteries of the 83rd session is the fate of a special committee that was formed to look into governance issues at the University of Texas System. Read more…
For higher education followers, one of the great lingering mysteries of the 83rd session is the fate of a special committee that was formed to look into governance issues at the University of Texas System. Read more…
Lawmakers, Observers React to Tense UT System Meeting by Reeve Hamilton of Texas Tribune
Longtime employees of the University of Texas System said they could not recall a split vote on the board of regents, which has traditionally settled differences behind closed doors and presented a unified front. That changed on Wednesday, catching higher education observers and even some lawmakers off guard. Read more…
Updated, 5:30 p.m Wed.: UT-Austin President Bill Powers issued a campus-wide email this afternoon acknowledging his receipt of the task force’s recommendations to boost the school’s four-year graduation rate to 70 percent by 2016. Read more…
State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, has known Francisco Cigarroa since he was born. His mother is one of her best friends. His father is her physician.
But Cigarroa, the chancellor of the University of Texas System, didn’t alert Zaffirini, who leads the Senate Higher Education Committee, when a controversy erupted early this year over the direction of the system and its governing board.
“And when UT was criticized in particular, you didn’t defend UT,” Zaffirini told Cigarroa at a hearing held Friday by a special House-Senate panel. “Why not?” Read more…
By Liz Farmer
The UT System announced a partnership Tuesday with the interactive website MyEdu to increase online advising efforts across UT institutions.
The partnership is part of UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s Framework for Excellence Action Plan, which focuses on trimming costs by increasing university efficiency. The goal for implementing MyEdu is to increase graduation rates by helping students better understand how to navigate through their degree plans with online advising. UT-Austin, UT-Arlington and UT-Permian Basin will be the first to receive the MyEdu platform, although officials did not announce an exact date when the decision was made. The MyEdu platform will expand to all other UT System institutions in 2012.
The MyEdu platform will include a “graduation road map enabling students to visualize their time line to graduation” in an effort to minimize “planning mistakes that leave students extending time in college to complete required courses,” according to a press release. Read more…
One can understand the impulse of some bureaucrats and legislators to shield themselves from oversight. But it’s surprising to find a citizen — a businessman, no less! — cheerleading for such recklessness… Until you realize he presided over “one of the largest financial institution failures in U.S. history.”
Kenneth Jastrow, the disgraced former CEO of Temple-Inland and board member of Guaranty Bank, is accused with others in a billion-dollar lawsuit by the failed banks’ creditors and the FDIC of causing “the failure of [the bank] by fraudulently looting… the Bank of assets exceeding $1 billion.”
Yep, Mr. Jastrow clearly knows a thing or two about governance.
The apologists for higher education bloat were apparently interested in how they can loot their institutions and taxpayers. They found their man.
So, of course, the Texas Legislature’s special committee on higher ed listened raptly to Mr. Jastrow’s every word at a hearing on Monday. Mr. Jastrow was invited to testify on the virtues of mismanagement… though that’s not what he (or they) called it.
The accused bank looter, whose actions allegedly forced a massive taxpayer bail-out, essentially told lawmakers that bureaucrats in Texas’ universities need less oversight from the boards of regents.
Unsurprisingly, Mr. Jastrow is one of the key leaders in a pro-bloat organization called the “Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education” which sprung up this year to oppose reform and transparency efforts. Read more…
WGU Texas, a subsidiary of the nationally recognized nonprofit Western Governors University, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. WGU Texas announced that it is one of three state subsidiaries that will be supported by a $4.5 million dollar grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This investment will help the state’s new online university expand its access to affordable, competency-based higher education. Read more…
The below statement is from the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education in response to yesterday’s announcement by Senator Zaffirini and Representative Branch that the first public hearing of the Joint Oversight committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency would be held in September. The Committee’s release is below for your reference.
COALITION encouraged by announcement of FIRST HEARING OF joint oversight committee on higher education governance, excellence and transparency
AUSTIN—The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education today issued the following statement in support of the announcement that the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency would hold its first public hearing on September 21, 2011:
“We commend Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst, Speaker Straus, Senator Zaffirini and Representative Branch for their unwavering commitment to improve quality, accessibility, efficiency, and transparency in higher education. As we continue to discuss and advance thoughtful, constructive dialogue around improving higher education in Texas, we applaud our legislative leadership for making higher education a top priority. We support these leaders as they work together with the public to solve the challenges facing higher education and look forward to productive discussions at this and future hearings.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Aug. 23, 2011
Will Krueger, 512/463-0121
Candice Woodruff, 512/463-0367
JOINT OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE ON HIGHER EDUCATION
GOVERNANCE, EXCELLENCE AND TRANSPARENCY
TO HOLD FIRST HEARING
AUSTIN –Today the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency posted notice for its first public hearing, which will be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 21, in Room E1.036 of the Texas Capitol.
Co-Chaired by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and Representative Dan Branch, R-Dallas, the committee was created by Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Speaker Joe Straus to ensure that governing boards follow best practices when developing and implementing policy; look for major policy decisions to be adequately vetted and discussed transparently; and protect the excellence and high quality of our state’s institutions of higher education.
Senator Zaffirini and Representative Branch also chair the standing higher education committees of their respective chambers.
Other House members appointed by Speaker Straus are Representatives Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton; Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio; Eric Johnson, D-Dallas; Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham; and Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie.
“Higher education oversight is critical because our colleges and universities are among Texas’ most important assets,” Senator Zaffirini said. “They not only equip our future leaders to be lifelong learners, but also conduct nationally recognized research, thereby expanding knowledge, creating new technologies and positioning Texas at the forefront of the knowledge-based economy.”
“I thank the Speaker and the Lt. Governor for the opportunity to serve, and for assembling a team of thoughtful legislators who care deeply about the importance of higher education in Texas,” Representative Branch said. “Governance of our universities is important because, in so many ways, higher education will set the course for the future of our state.”
Last week, Texas partnered with the Western Governors University in the creation of WGU Texas, an accredited, online university offering degrees in more than 50 areas of study, many of them vital to meeting the demands of the growing jobs market here in the Lone Star State.
We all know attaining a college degree is among the most effective ways to improve anyone’s quality of life, and ensuring a steady stream of college graduates ready to take on the high-tech jobs of the future is imperative to our mission of keeping Texas on top of the nation in job creation.
Innovative ways to effectively and affordably educate Texans, like WGU Texas, are going to be essential parts of improving access to higher education, but it’s far from the only approach we’ve taken.
In 2000, Texas was falling behind the 10 most populous states in the proportion of students enrolling in college. Acting on recommendations of a commission I formed as lieutenant governor, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) adopted a strategic plan for higher education, Closing the Gaps by 2015, challenging our higher education institutions to increase enrollment by 500,000 in 15 years.
Closing the Gaps has been a success for students and their families, taxpayers and policy-makers alike. So successful, in fact, that in 2005 we moved the goalposts back further, increasing the target number to 630,000 by 2015. With enrollment up by almost 486,000 in 2010, our institutions are well on their way to meeting this revised goal. Read more…
By MQSullivan, Empower Texans
Whatever else the Fourth Estate might have once been, reporters of the past were at least willing to ask tough questions of those holding the reins of power and access to the people’s purse. Today, whether it’s the Washington Post or the Texas Tribune, the press seems to exist more to shield government functionaries from public review and accountability, and to attack reformers.
Let’s face it: The higher-ed establishment is out-of-control, spending wildly and waging a political fight to keep students, parents and taxpayers in the dark about how dollars are used in state-funded colleges and universities.
Of course, you won’t find that in the press. The “conservative” blogger at the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin, today took at aim at those with commonsense questions about higher education spending calling them “crackpot.”
Conservatives actually want government-spenders held accountable. At the WaPo, a staff “conservative” is really just a liberal who sits slightly to the right of Nancy Pelosi or Barney Frank. Rubin has a history of attacking conservatives and conservative reforms. The Washington Post calls her a conservative, but it doesn’t mean she is. Rubin clearly trades in ad hominem attacks rather than government accountability.
Rubin and her crowd don’t ask hard questions of their ideological betters in lefty academia and the halls of bureaucratic power. That’s not what shills do. And her motivation today was clearly to attack Texas Gov. Rick Perry, with higher ed reform the convenient tool..
The Ivory Tower dwellers don’t want dollars spent better, and they sure don’t want any transparency or accountability. So the higher-ed administrators and their country club friends have taken to disparaging the reformers using their tools in the press. Read more…
AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry, with the support of Higher Education Chairs Sen. Judith Zaffirini and Rep. Dan Branch, today announced the creation of WGU Texas, a subsidiary of Western Governors University (WGU), which is an accredited, nationally-recognized, nonprofit university. WGU Texas will offer an affordable and flexible alternative for Texans seeking a higher education degree. The governor also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to enhance the state’s participation with and support of WGU, which was founded in 1997 by governors of 19 states, including Texas.
“Earning a college degree is one of the most effective ways for individuals to improve the quality of life for themselves and their families,” Gov. Perry said. “By offering online, competency-based courses in key workforce areas, WGU Texas provides another flexible, affordable way for Texans to fulfill their potential and contribute their talents for years and decades to come, without any need for state funding. Our strengthened collaboration with WGU plays an important role in the effort to ensure Texas has an equipped workforce to meet the needs of job creators.”
WGU is an online university that primarily serves working adults and offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in key workforce areas of business, information technology, education and health professions, including nursing. More than 75 percent of students are low income, minority, first generation to attend college or rural students. WGU does not receive state funding, but is self-sustaining on tuition of about $5,780 per 12-month year. WGU was started through a memorandum of understanding and provision of $100,000 in start-up funding from each of the 19 founding states.
“Working Texans who cannot pursue their higher education goals on college campuses certainly should reap the benefits of WGU Texas’ online, competency-based model,” Sen. Judith Zaffirini said. “They also should benefit from the program’s flexibility, which will allow them to meet family and work responsibilities while continuing their studies. Although WGU Texas does not receive state funding and is self-sustaining through tuition, it will help address our state’s key workforce needs while offering affordable career and continuing education opportunities to Texans over 30.”
WGU Texas is being created through Executive Order RP 75, which calls on state agencies to work cooperatively with WGU toward the creation and establishment of WGU Texas. It also directs agencies including the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), Texas Education Agency and Texas Workforce Commission to create appropriate data sharing processes as may be required by state or federal guidelines for higher education providers.
“Texas needs legions of new, sharp, credentialed minds to succeed in a knowledge-based economy,” Rep. Dan Branch said. “The creation of WGU Texas will provide another low cost, flexible and tested option for Texans seeking to compete in a global marketplace.”
This MOU is an addendum to the one executed by the state and WGU in 1997, and further enhances Texas’ participation and support of WGU Texas, particularly through the creation of an advisory board whose members will be appointed in consultation with the governor.
“By establishing WGU Texas, Gov. Perry and the State of Texas are making quality higher education more accessible for working adults throughout the Lone Star State,” said Dr. Robert W. Mendenhall, President of WGU. “We look forward to this partnership with the state, which will help thousands of Texans earn the college degrees they want and need, on a schedule they can manage, at a cost they can afford.”
WGU degrees are competency-based, meaning students advance by demonstrating their knowledge and abilities, rather than accumulating credit hours. This model better serves adult learners who enroll with specific skill sets, allowing them to graduate faster. Additionally, this model particularly benefits veterans, who are able to apply the skills they learned in the military toward their degrees, which helps implement SB 1736 that created the College Credit for Heroes Program and was signed by Gov. Perry. More than 25,000 students from all 50 states, including 1,600 Texans, are enrolled at WGU, which has grown more than 30 percent annually.
“WGU Texas will significantly expand access to affordable, high quality education and training,” said THECB Commissioner Raymund Paredes. “This initiative is yet another innovation that is making Texas a national role model for reinventing higher education.” Read more…
By Reeve Hamilton
In the wake of well-documented budget woes, the state Legislature took a more than 9 percent chunk out of higher education funding for public universities and colleges in the recent session.
In June, shortly after the budget decisions were made at the Capitol, the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents called a special meeting in Dallas. It approved a 5.9 percent increase in tuition and fees for Texas Tech University in Lubbock, and a 9.9 percent increase for Angelo State University in San Angelo.
“The increase in tuition and fees will enable us to offset a portion of the deficit we’ve incurred due to state budget cuts,” said Texas Tech president Guy Bailey. The increase is expected to generate approximately $8.6 million for his university, which saw a $29.1 million cut over the next biennium.
The tuition hike has drawn significant criticism from both sides of the political divide. The Tech chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas issued a press release asserting that the regents had “decided to avoid the key issue of balancing the budget by cutting frivolous spending and instead, took the easy way out by passing the burden on to students, as it consistently seems to do.”
Meanwhile, state Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, placed the blame on legislators. “By slashing state support for higher education, those in control of the legislature pushed these universities to raise tuition and close the door to higher education for many hard-working students,” he said in a statement.
Of course, the Texas Tech University System is not the only group to make such a move. Earlier in the month, the University of Houston System approved a 3.95 percent increase for each of its four institutions. The UH System Board of Regents Chairwoman Carroll Ray said it was a last resort. “We understand the financial burden many of our students face, however, the UH System could not absorb the cut in state funding we currently face on our own,” she said.
The University of North Texas System regents approved tuition hikes back in March. The 2.8 percent increase at the University of North Texas will mean $101.25 more in tuition and fees for students taking 15 hours this fall and $117.75 in the spring. Unlike some of his peers, UNT President V. Lane Rawlins said the increase was not intended to make up for state budget cuts, but rather to bolster its efforts toward becoming a tier-one research university.
Amid the fireworks of its May meeting, which featured the final speech of an outgoing chancellor and a fiery protest from faculty, the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents voted to keep most tuition rates level. However, there were exceptions for specific programs, including three colleges — engineering, veterinary medicine and architecture — at the flagship campus in College Station, as well as some increases at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Read more…
Having spent many years in public service, advancing K-12 education accountability, tax relief, higher education reform and running for Congress, one lesson I’ve learned is you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
If you had asked me before I started as Special Advisor to the University of Texas Board of Regents what the forces of the status quo might have disliked, the answer would have been the fact that, as executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, I led the implementation of the College Opportunity Fund, which created the nation’s first higher education vouchers. For some people the mere mention of the V word brings a negative reaction.
The Texas Tribune reported accurately, however, that my hiring “sparked an uproar that, in the words of House Higher Education Chairman Dan Branch, ‘shook the foundations of UT.’” Hardly anyone ever mentioned vouchers, so the question is, what is it that caused this earthquake?
The First Iron Triangle
Among the reasons I was excited to serve the regents is my belief that this current board understands that higher education is undergoing disruptive innovation and that they are eager to position all UT System campuses to succeed in breaking what is often referred to in higher education as the iron triangle. As I wrote for the regents at the time:
The University of Texas System has a fundamental choice in how it responds to the pressures facing higher education: merely react and possibly be forced to make decisions that compromise our mission or be proactive and embrace the future, with a vision of being the nation’s number one public university system for the 21st century, including having the top flagship public research university in America. To be proactive will require that the U. T. System and campus leadership, management and faculty – and how it is organized and operated – embrace a culture that believes it is possible to accomplish three goals simultaneously:
- strengthen the quality of student learning and research excellence;
- expand access to serve more students; and
- reduce costs to be more affordable to students and taxpayers.
Too often many in higher education have believed these goals to be contradictory – more access requires more money or lower standards; higher quality means more limited access or more money; lower costs mean less quality or enrollment caps. The Regents’ Task Force on University Excellence and Productivity will explore how to break this iron triangle and instead embrace the implementation of improved quality, expanded access and lower costs.
Breaking this iron triangle is not an easy task. It requires courageous leadership, fundamental changes in how institutions operate and, ultimately, a shift in mindsets among administrators and faculty as to what makes for a premier public research university.
Unfortunately, before the regents or I had taken any actions beyond setting up two task forces to begin to look into how to break this iron triangle, we ran smack dab into a different one. Read more…
By Reeve Hamilton
If there was a theme to the just-concluded 82nd legislative session it was do more with less, and Rep. Dan Branch, Dallas Republican and chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, embraced it by attacking the cost of college from multiple angles. He pushed through legislation to try to lower what students spend on textbooks and to encourage that undergraduate students file — and stick to — degree plans.
Four miles away, on the second floor of a South Austin office building, Michael Crosno is working on the same issues by applying pressure from the outside. He is not a policy wonk. He is a businessman who has built and sold a string of successful software companies.
Not long ago, Crosno, 59, thought he would make the move into the education arena as a college instructor in business. But he did not have the influence he had hoped he would have.
“What I learned through teaching and being associated with educational institutions,” he said, “is you need more. A bunch of good teachers is wonderful, but it’s not going to solve the problems in higher ed.”
Crosno’s newest venture could make him a national player in efforts to reduce the time it takes a student to graduate — perhaps the most effective cost-savings method there is. Slightly more than half of all college students nationally graduate — if they graduate at all — in six years, not four. Read more…
A&M regents are expected to name Jay Kimbrough to a pair of top positions later this week.
While Texas A&M’s choice of an interim chancellor is looking more certain, a fresh controversy is developing around the way Gov. Rick Perryselected a student regent for the system’s board.The Texas Tribune reported that Rick Perry’s former chief of staff Jay Kimbrough was the likely pick for the Texas A&M system’s interim chancellor, and Kimbrough later told the Bryan-College Station Eagle he is indeed being considered for the job.
“It’s not set in stone,” said Kimbrough, who serves as special adviser to the Board of Regents. “Regents have the authority and flexibility to pick anyone they want.”
The A&M System Board of Regents will meet Thursday to consider selecting an interim chancellor and deputy chancellor, and Kimbrough confirmed that he’s being considered for the deputy chancellor job as well.
Kimbrough, 63, a motorcycle enthusiast who received a Purple Heart in Vietnam, has served as deputy chancellor and general counsel from June 2007 to October 2008.
In August of 2009 he became an adviser to regents. He also has been put in charge of several troubled state agencies, including the Texas Youth Commission. Read more…
Enrolling for classes is no longer enough. This Congressional term, marked by budget cuts and fund reallocation, has yet again set its sights on higher education.
During the regular session, which ended May 30, the 82nd Texas Legislature discussed a switch to an outcome-based higher education funding alternative that would change certain requirements for state colleges and universities to receive government funding.
Current funding practices specify that colleges and universities merely maintain a certain level of student enrollment to receive funding. However disparities between the growing state population and enrollment in institutions of higher education have been increasingly evident.
“I think that if you look at the effort that has been underway for several years now, one of the big concerns is ‘how are we going to make sure the people of Texas can get a college degree?’ The Texas Educational Coordinating Board data states that we’re on track in terms of accessibility, and I’m not talking just about Texas A&M, I’m talking about all the universities in Texas,” said Karan Watson, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs. “We’ve grown in enrollment like they’ve hoped we would. As the state grows in population, we need to grow in enrollment and having not been as successful as some states in what percentage of our young people are going to college, we need to do a better job of that.” Read more…
It is time we rock the Ivory Tower…maybe long overdue.
How do parents prepare for the high costs of college? It could be that jumping on the bandwagon to reform higher education would be the best way to enhance affordability.
More parents are saving money for their children’s college education…in 2010; $9 billion has been put in government-run college savings plans. It’s a good thing. In 2010 public university, average undergrad college tuition $7,605.
But that money is not enough. The average student graduates with a debt of between $22,000-$27,000. Rate of default in student and parent loans is 5-10% per year. About 41% of people with student loans get in trouble and at some time become delinquent.
Pew poll reveals 75% say college is too expensive for most Americans to afford it.
Average cost of a college education has tripled since 1980.
While parents are struggling to find a way to pay for their children’s college, and almost half of those who have taken out loans are struggling to make their payments, this is money that is not in the economy and is a drag to our economic growth.
A well-educated workforce is important to our economic well-being. But with college costs growing (in Texas, costs have gone up 70% since 2003), we should be looking for ways to make college more affordable and accessible to Texas students. Read more…
Legislators want to ensure transparency and impartiality in university boards of regents with a new committee after learning officials were meeting with Gov. Rick Perry behind closed doors, said Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, to The Daily Texan.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, formed the Texas Joint Committee for Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency last month to discuss higher education policy decisions openly and protect the high quality of Texas universities. In recent months, Perry and interest groups such as the Texas Public Policy Foundation have pushed for separation between research and academic funding, which legislators said could harm universities’ goals.
“We must do all that we can to ensure that these public institutions operate transparently and with world-class leadership,” Straus said in a press release. “The talented members that we are appointing understand that effective university governing systems enable our students to compete on the global stage.” Read more…
By Daniel Greer
Currently Sen. Zaffirini is lead blocking for anti-transparency in spending at Texas state universities. While taxpayers are asking for clearer answers to how money is being used Zaffirini is conjuring up conspiracy theories about meddlesome regents to distract and sideline the reform efforts. Zaffirini, a liberal Democrat, has the backing of a Republican Lt. Governor.
Last week Zaffirini told the Austin American Statesman public university boards of regents merit close watch for up to six years. In reality it’s Zaffirini and her cohorts who need close watch. Her reason for the extra attention is a belief the regents are part of a grand scheme to fundamentally alter higher education in Texas.
It all depends on what she means. If by “fundamentally alter” she means make higher education more affordable and hold professors accountable for teaching and research, the regents would almost assuredly agree. This week has seen two reports that strongly suggest the need fundamental changes to how our universities are run. The first revealed workloads at UT vary widely; a small portion of the faculty does most of the work. The second report revealed universities are failing to provide graduates with a high-quality education. Read more…
By Weston Hicks
An avowed ally of controlling university tuition costs, Representative Dan Branch (R) has nevertheless given mixed signals concerning the UT Higher Ed controversy. Branch co chairs the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence, and Transparency.
It’s unlikely he’ll spend political capital on liberal Democrat Senator Judith Zaffirini’s one woman conspiracy crusade against accountability in higher ed, especially given his own commitment to controlling tuition costs. Given growing suspicions among Republican voters that words and actions don’t match up in some politicians, Branch would do well to make his position harder to mistake. Read more…
Representative Dan Branch, Republican of Dallas and chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, succeeded this session in passing a major bill on a new financing system for institutions of higher education. A system with a large “outcomes-based funding” component has so far garnered significant support. The implementation of such a practice would reward universities for a higher number of graduates, not merely for an increased number of enrolled students. This system is tailored to encourage Texas to meet its 2015 goals, one of which is to increase the number of degrees awarded by 46,000 each year.
Among the supporters of an outcomes-based funding system is Raymund Paredes, the Texas higher-education commissioner. However, there is disagreement as to which specific outcomes to measure and, as a result, how to encourage them.
At the end of the session, Senate Higher Education Committee chairwoman Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) insisted that the questions remains “if, not when” Texas might adopt a system of this sort. Read more…
By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz
No one expected institutions of higher learning in Texas and their students to emerge unscarred from the legislative session, and they did not.
The number of students receiving state financial aid grants will decline by tens of thousands during the next two years. Community colleges aren’t getting any extra funding to accommodate sharp enrollment growth. Appropriations to the University of Texas are down 16.5 percent, or $92.1 million, for 2012-13. Read more…
Zaffirini chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee and, along with Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, the recently established Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency.
The joint panel will conduct a lengthy and thorough examination of governance, policymaking and other matters, she said in an interview. Its first report is due in January 2013.
Zaffirini said she expects the spotlight to remain on governing boards, especially that of the University of Texas System, for four to six years. That would be long enough to include Gov. Rick Perry’s current term in office and the term of some of his recent appointees to the UT board, she said. Read more…
It could become a reality for students to graduate from the University of Houston’s Sugar Land and Cinco Ranch campuses as Aggies if proponents are successful in pursuing a Texas A&M takeover of the UH learning complexes.
State Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, has been pushing for transferring the University of Houston-Victoria and its Sugar Land and Cinco Ranch teaching centers to the Texas A&M University System.
For that, she drafted House Bill 2556, which died in the current Legislative session because it passed the May 12 deadline for a second reading on the House floor. It never received a first hearing since it was introduced and referred to the House Committee on Higher Education in March.
The issue remains alive despite the demise of the bill. Read more…
The Senate passed a measure Tuesday that would link part of higher education funding to the student and university “outcomes” and performance.
The bill carried by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, in the Senate would reconfigure the universities’ formula funding to allow the state to tie no more than10 percent of the funding to graduate rates and other outcomes.
Currently, funding is based on enrollment at the beginning of each semester. Read more…
These students have wasted more than their own time and tuition money. There’s also the lost investment that taxpayers made in subsidizing their education.
Texas has a weak record in keeping undergraduates focused on completing their coursework: It ranks third among states in the amount it spends on students who drop out their first year. Measured over five years, that adds up to $471 million in taxpayers’ money. Read more…
The date of a high-profile Victoria meeting of two Texas chancellors and state legislators remains unclear.
When Rep. Dan Branch called for the meeting, the Dallas Republican asked the group to meet here in June. As of Saturday, no official date had been set, the Advocate confirmed.
Branch serves as chairman of the Texas House Committee on Higher Education. In late April, he asked the Texas A&M University and University of Houston system chancellors to meet, in part, with Victoria’s state representative and senator. Read more…
TEXAS STATE CAPITOL – Gov. Rick Perry (last month) emphasized his commitment to making higher education more affordable, accountable and accessible to Texans. The governor was joined by Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) Commissioner Raymund Paredes, THECB Chairman Fred Heldenfels and House Higher Education Committee Chairman Rep. Dan Branch to announce the release of the inaugural edition of the Texas Public Higher Education Almanac, a publication that spotlights key information about Texas’ higher education institutions in the effort to increase transparency and accountability.
By Daniel Greer
Regent Alex Cranberg’s simple information request about professor compensation and use of time stirred Zaffirini into an agitated effort to shield UT from accountability. Read more…
It would seem the high priests of academia — the faculty senates, the administrators, the ivory tower crowd — are intractably opposed to releasing meaningful information about how dollars are spent and to what effect.
Despite being public institutions, underwritten by taxpayers, students and parents, and enjoying the sovereign status as entities of the state, transparency is all but nonexistent once dollars enter the hallowed grounds of our major universities.
That must change.
It seems the universities don’t even like it when regents start asking questions about the institutions for which they have a constitutional obligation — and sworn oath — to manage. Read more…
A majority of Americans (57 percent) believe that the higher education system in the country fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend, according to a survey released Sunday by the Pew Research Center. Three-quarters of those polled said that college is too expensive for most Americans. But among Americans who are college graduates, 86 percent said that college had been a good investment for them personally. Pew also released a survey, in conjunction with The Chronicle of Higher Education, of college presidents. (Inside Higher Ed released a survey of college presidents in March.) Read more…
By Reeve Hamilton Texas Tribune
Currently, public funding for institutions is allocated according to the number of students that enroll at the beginning of a semester. House Bill 9 by House Higher Education Chairman Dan Branch, R-Dallas, would allow the state to tie a portion of that funding to outcomes such as graduation rates.
The bill is vague on some of the specifics, such has what percentage of the funding should be outcomes-based or precisely which outcomes should be rewarded. Such decisions are largely left to the discretion of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which — like Gov. Rick Perry — supports the concept. Read more…
Senate Bill 5, authored by Judith Zaffirini (D) has poison pills buried within, designed to decrease transparency and accountability in higher education spending. The stated purpose of the bill is to control education costs. Read more…
By Karen Townsend
If someone asked you to spearhead the reform efforts for the State of Texas in higher education, what would be your starting place? For conservatives, the answer likely would be with the money expenditures and results of the expenditures.
Just show me the money. Then show me the results.
Much has been written of late about the hiring of an assistant to the Regents of UT and his inquiries into the money and results equation, as it relates to higher education reform in Texas.
Since 1999, then Lt Governor Perry began working on the issue. Yes, twelve years ago Perry appointed the first reform committee. Since 2008, when the game changed with the economic conditions of the country and the big tuition hikes proposed, Governor Perry has reached the point of being tired of the same old excuses given by those beholden to the status quo. Why is reform so controversial now? Read more…
By Melissa Ludwig
Gene Powell, a San Antonio businessman who chairs the University of Texas System Board of Regents, would like to reduce tuition by about 50 percent across system institutions, including UTSA, according to an April 7 memo obtained by the San Antonio Express-News and the Houston Chronicle.
Powell also suggests increasing enrollment at UT-Austin by 10 percent per year beginning in 2013, and by an unspecified figure at all other campuses.
Other goals include making UT-Austin the best public university in the nation and creating a timeline for UT’s four emerging research universities, including the University of Texas at San Antonio, to reach Tier One status. Read more…
By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Debate over the direction of the University of Texas System intensified Tuesday when the chairwoman of the state Senate Higher Education Committee dismissed suggestions to cut tuition and increase enrollment by the chairman of the system’s Board of Regents as “ludicrous.”
The chairman of the House Higher Education Committee also expressed concern, as did a vice chairman of the regents who oversees academic affairs.
Meanwhile, the office of Gov. Rick Perry, a group of business leaders and an Austin-based think tank praised Gene Powell, chairman of the regents, for pursuing innovations in higher education. Read more…
One week ago, Rick O’Donnell’s employment at the University of Texas System came to an abrupt end after 50 days marked by tension and confusion in the higher education community — especially at the University of Texas at Austin.
O’Donnell’s position initially raised questions because of its $200,000-per-year salary and its similarities to the job description of UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa — and the fact that he was to report directly to Gene Powell, the chairman of the UT System Board of Regents. Powell failed in his initial attempts to quell the controversy by having O’Donnell report to administrators under Cigarroa and ending O’Donnell’s employment at the end of August. An email O’Donnell wrote to a sympathetic regent last week criticizing the actions of system and university leaders since his hiring appears to have been the last straw, and O’Donnell was dismissed.
Texas A&M University has drawn harsh criticism for controversial initiatives connected to the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Meanwhile, the same conservative think tank has had a hand in developing statewide higher education reforms currently under consideration by the Legislature.
Budget-crunched colleges and universities could soon receive new state mandates –- influenced by a ‘students-as-customers’ approach to higher ed -– transforming their funding models, grant systems and professor accountability measures in the name of ‘productivity.’ The legislative suggestions emanate not only from TPPF but also from ideas presented by a specially formed committee with financial and professional ties to Gov. Rick Perry, as well as to TPPF.
Branch’s House Bill 9 would alter the way public colleges and universities receive state funding by factoring in degree completion rates, in addition to enrollment rates. The outcomes-based funding model accounts for annual increases in graduates, degrees awarded to at-risk students and those graduating in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
Under HB 10, low-income students applying for the Toward Excellence, Access and Success (TEXAS) Grants –- the state’s major need-based grant fund –- would face more stringent academic requirements to receive assistance. Priority will be given to high schoolers who have accomplished at least two out of the four following prerequisites: 1) completed college preparatory courses, 2) passed or are exempt from the college readiness benchmark, the Texas Success Initiative (TSI), and 3) have graduated in the top third of their class or have maintained a “B” average upon graduation or 4) have completed an advanced math course.
More generally, Branch’s HB 1460 aims to increase cost-efficiencies at public universities overall, with a focus on undergraduate degrees. The bill requires students to have a degree plan after completing 30 credit hours and calls for 10 percent of all semester credit hours to be earned through off-campus activity, such as online courses and internships. Additionally, Branch, who did not reply for comment at press time, calls for greater accountability, requiring institutions of higher education to submit annual progress reports on student success. The bill puts professors on watch, requiring a written report to be sent to state legislative officials detailing the workload difference an average faculty member undertakes each year, compared to the 2010-2011 school year. Starting in 2013, the average faculty member will be required to load on 10 percent more instruction than what similar institutions are undertaking this school year.
The legislative proposals introduced by Branch align with the productivity-centered recommendations set forth by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board last fall. A THECB report, drafted in September, listed seven key legislative actions directly paralleling much of the language used in Branch’s bills, including efficiency standards, the TEXAS Grant priority model and funding formula changes. The recommendations, spurred by a 2009 directive from Perry to promote cost-efficiency measures, were crafted by a 20-member advisory committee composed of business and education leaders. With input from Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes and staff, the committee members were chosen internally by THECB chair Fred W. Heldenfels IV and former vice chair of board leadership Brenda Pejovich (who is now a University of Texas Regent appointed by Perry), THECB spokesperson Andy Kesling said.
Of the 20 members of the specially formed THECB committee tasked with drafting a master outline for the future of Texas higher education, two -– Pejovich and Ernest Angelo, Jr. –- are on the TPPF board. Additionally, 11 out of the 20 members have donated more than $500,000 combined to the Perry campaign since 2000. Major donors include Nye ($253,000); Texas Governor’s Business Council chair Woody Hunt ($245,000); Pejovich (nearly $50,000); Texas Tech University Regent Frederick Francis ($25,000); and THECB chair Heldenfels ($18,500).
In addition to the Regents, deans and chancellors of small and large colleges, John Murphy — a regional general manager for Wal-Mart — helped craft the higher education priorities, as well as Erle Nye — a former A&M Regent chair who some may remember from his involvement in a whistleblower lawsuit against TXU Corp., the multi-billion dollar energy corporation he led as CEO.
(Shortly before the company plummeted, Nye is reported to have dumped thousands of stock and received a stock bonus of $4.3 million, leading company insiders to allege Nye and his colleagues intentionally misled shareholders, the Texas Observer reported in 2004. The TXU suit was settled in 2005, and Nye collected stock bonuses worth $16 million and now serves as a chairman emeritus of the energy company.)
While granting real estate, oil-and-gas and big-box retail leaders authority to guide higher education policy may strike some as questionable, the committee’s measures have been wholeheartedly embraced by the business community, receiving approval and promotion by the Texas Association of Business and Governor’s Business Council.
The blueprint for those reforms can be traced back even further to when they debuted during a May 2008 summit hosted by TPPF. Seven ‘solutions’ for higher education were presented to university Regents from around the state that emphasized a performance-centered, or ‘outcome’-based, measures of success and promoted cost-efficient and a ‘students-as-customers’ approaches to education.
TPPF-inspired ideas have caused controversy at A&M, where, as an example of one early initiative, faculty are eligible for up to $10,000 in performance incentives based on anonymous student evaluations. Professor Peter Hugill, who is president of the Texas Conference of the American Association of University Professors, is a vocal critic of TPPF reforms, telling the Texas Independent on more than one occasion the organization is essentially playing politics with higher education policy.
Recently, a letter from American Association of Universities head Robert Berdahl to A&M System Chancellor Mike McKinney was made public by the Texas Tribune, wherein Berdahl expressed disapproval of TPPF’s influence. Berdahl sharply questioned the think tank’s ‘ill-conceived’ reforms that demonstrate “little or no understanding of the nature of graduate education.”
McKinney, a Perry appointee and part of the THECB advisory committee, rebuked Berdahl’s criticisms in a letter of his own. According to the Bryan-College Station Eagle, many of McKinney’s retorts focused on Berdahl’s former role as president of UT-Austin.
“With all due respect, he didn’t know what he was talking about,” McKinney told the Eagle.
“Let’s see. He was president at Texas and chancellor at Berkeley,” McKinney also told the Eagle. “I’m at A&M.”
Meanwhile, UT professors are taking preemptive action against reforms, self-organizing a panel to defend their interests.
Although some of the reforms presented in Branch’s bills differ from ones enacted at A&M, the think tank’s legislative recommendations are reflected in the legislation.
According to a 2010-2011 “Legislative Guide,” TPPF recommended that lawmakers:
“Change the funding process for public universities by switching from a university-centered approach to student-centered, graduation-focused funding. By doing so, Texas can create a market in higher education that incentivizes universities to minimize costs and maximize instructional quality by putting state appropriations in the hands of students who can choose from competing public, non-profit, and for-profit institutions.”
Furthermore, TPPF advised legislators to “institute more reforms that tie university funding to student success results, such as number of degrees issued, student satisfaction, employment outcomes, and student assessments,” as well recommending improved accountability measures.
Critics have said the group lacks a basic understanding of the complexities of higher education and also claim the think tank laces their approach with political ideology.
Perry has close ties to TPPF, donating proceeds of his recent book “Fed Up!” to the organization, and the 14 TPPF board members have returned the favor in campaign cash, donating nearly $1.5 million to Perry’s fund, the Texas Independent previously reported.