Kiplinger’s Personal Finance has featured UT Austin among the “100 best values in public colleges” in its January issue. UT was ranked 27th based on a formula of cost and quality factors that included graduation rates, competitiveness, tuition, financial aid, and student debt. This recognition reinforces that UT offers outstanding educational opportunities at an affordable price. Read more in the Alcalde online.
And for a more comprehensive analysis of our academic outcomes, efficiency, and affordability, see this study by SMU Professor Michael K. McLendon.
We’re looking forward to welcoming our students back to campus and to making even more strides in quality and efficiency in 2013.
Happy New Year from the 40 Acres!
On Thursday night, I had the pleasure of attending a function in New York City for The Posse Foundation. It was a wonderful evening emceed by Leslie Stahl from 60 Minutes. Posse is a wonderful and innovative organization. It identifies and trains urban high school students and sends them to college in multicultural teams (or “posses”) of 10 students. It began in New York in 1989 and now includes chapters in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Miami, and New Orleans. UT Austin has partnered to recruit 10 Posse Scholars a year from the foundation’s newest chapter in Houston. Scholars will receive training from the foundation before they get here, four-year, full-tuition scholarships at UT Austin, on-campus mentoring, and the opportunity to apply for summer internships with Posse’s industry-leading partner companies and organizations.
Posse Scholars not only act as support networks for each other, but also become very involved on campus. They are the types of students who go on to become presidents and founders of campus organizations. The Posse Foundation represents a novel and worthy concept in higher education and will be especially valuable at a large university like ours. We expect great things from these 10 scholars and look forward to watching them develop into leaders at The University of Texas.
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Lastly, I’m glad to announce that we have extended our agreement with the Cotton Bowl and additional five years (until 2020) for the UT-OU game. Those with an appreciation for the history of the Red River Rivalry and enjoy its proximity to the Texas State Fair will welcome this news. I want to thank our director of men’s athletics, DeLoss Dodds, for his good work on this front.
Hook ’em Horns,
As you may have now heard, today the UT Board of Regents took actions that will have profound effects on our university.
The Board voted to allocate $25 million recurring, with an additional $5 million for eight years, to fund a medical school in Austin. This allocation — along with a pending $250 million commitment from the Seton Healthcare Family for a new teaching hospital — moves us closer than ever to bringing a medical school to UT Austin. The founding of a medical school at UT would be an enormous event in the life of the University, would offer dramatic new opportunities for our students and our faculty, and would advance health care in Central Texas.
Nevertheless, I’m disappointed to report that the Board declined to adopt our tuition recommendation. Instead it voted to freeze undergraduate tuition at its current level for Texas residents at UT Austin for the next two years. It did allocate $6.6 million of non-recurring money from the Available University Fund (the endowment from the West Texas oil lands) for those same two years. It adopted our request for a 3.6 percent increase for graduate students but declined to adopt it for the second year. Tuition for out-of-state undergraduates will increase by 2.1 percent for two years rather than 3.6 percent as we requested. The tuition freeze was not applied to any other UT System school.
While many students naturally will welcome the news of a tuition freeze, we should understand the serious consequences for UT Austin and for the ability of Texans to benefit from strong public universities.
Our university is supported financially by four pillars: state funding, tuition, research grants, and philanthropy. State support in constant dollars per UT student has fallen for more than a quarter century. With a multi-year tuition freeze, the second pillar of our funding structure effectively will be cut each year by the rate of inflation. While we appreciate the AUF allocation, it will provide less than half of the increase we had planned for. Moreover, a one-time allocation, however much it might mitigate short-term problems, cannot substitute for stable, recurring, sustainable funding needed to support long-term efforts aimed at student success.
This action inevitably will affect our ability to teach our students and make new discoveries. Our tuition proposal, which was unanimously recommended by the students on UT’s Tuition Policy Advisory Committee, was dedicated to fund initiatives to enhance student success, improve four-year graduation rates, and increase scholarships.
As we prepare for next year’s budget, I will work with faculty, students, staff, and our administrative leadership to address how we use our resources to protect the quality of education here at UT.
The University of Texas has pursued excellence and has steadily grown stronger for 129 years. I am committed to protecting the quality of a UT education for Texans, for our children, and for our grandchildren.
Few actions we could take as a university would benefit students, parents, and the University itself as much as increasing our four-year graduation rate. Timely graduation means a more affordable education for students and their families and would give more students access to a University of Texas education.
Although our four-year graduation rate of 50 percent is the highest of any public university in Texas, we must aspire to more. It is no coincidence that the most prestigious universities also have the highest graduation rates, and if we want to become the best public university in America, we must target this issue.
In September, I asked Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl to head up a task force to recommend ways of increasing four-year graduation to 70 percent in the next five years. The group submitted its report this week, and I thank the members for their hard work and insightful recommendations.
In total, the task force made more than 60 recommendations. Among them:
• Requiring orientation for all incoming first-year students
• Creating an online tool to better allow students and advisors to monitor progress to a degree
• Developing more intervention programs to identify and assist students in academic jeopardy
• Identifying “bottleneck” courses where limited seats can create challenges for students pursuing a required path to graduation
• Helping students commit to a major and avoid adding a second major if requirements cannot be met within four years
• Creating flat-rate summer tuition to encourage students to take a full academic load
• Increasing tuition for students who have not graduated despite earning more than the required number of credits
Some of these, such as mandatory freshman orientation, will be implemented immediately. Others will need additional input from faculty and staff.
Raising our graduation rates by 20 points in half a decade is an audacious goal. It will require the focused effort of both administrators and students to make it happen. But I’m convinced the benefits will repay the effort many times over.
Thank you for your support in achieving this important goal.
You may read the full report at: http://www.utexas.edu/graduation-rates/
At UT Austin, we’re working every day to improve the student experience and our academic outcomes.
I have created a task force, which convened in July, to work on increasing our graduation rates. As I said in my May speech on the future of the public research university, raising our four-year graduation rate is one of the most effective ways we can lower costs for Texas families and increase capacity at UT.
This effort is consistent with Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s Framework for Advancing Excellence Action Plan, which was unanimously approved by the Board of Regents on August 25. The framework addresses student success, faculty productivity, higher education costs, and many other factors.
I want to call your attention to some related comparative data taken from a study conducted by UT Austin sociology professor and associate dean Marc Musick:
- UT Austin’s six-year graduation rate of 81% is 13th out of 120 American public research universities.
- We rank 10th out of those 120 universities in the percentage of students graduating for every taxpayer and tuition dollar received.
- We are 2nd in the number of faculty employed for every taxpayer and tuition dollar received.
Based on these objective measures, UT Austin is near the top in efficiency among the nation’s public universities.
Of course there is much room for improvement. Our four-year graduation rate of 53% is not good enough. Michigan and Berkeley graduate about 70% of their undergraduates in four years. We must identify and remove the obstacles to timely graduation at UT Austin.
Public research universities must be good stewards of the public trust—and public resources. I am committed to making UT Austin an even more efficient university.
Hook ‘em Horns,
We have known for years that a UT degree is a good value, but it’s still nice to get outside confirmation.
According to a survey just published by SmartMoney Magazine, UT Austin is the second-best value in the United States. Working with PayScale, a compensation data company that maintains salary profiles of 29 million workers, the magazine developed a “Payback Score” that compares what graduates paid in tuition with their salaries. If you paid $100,000 to attend college and are now earning $150,000 a year, your score would be 150, so the higher the score the better. Georgia Tech scored the highest with 221, and UT placed with 194.
The survey found that in general public universities yielded a higher return on investment: “If our payback survey were a football game, the public schools would be spiking the ball in the end zone and kissing the mascots.”
The report goes on to say …
“Paul Ott, the Dallas father who counseled his son to go to a public college …, says they are anticipating getting an additional $2,000 or more in state scholarships from The University of Texas. At a recent freshman orientation in Austin, Ott says, another dad shared how Texas helped his son land a well-paying job in computer science at a Houston oil services firm after a summer internship. ‘The fellow said his son is making more money straight out of college than he did after 30 years,’ Ott recalls. Both the elder and younger Ott say they’d be more than happy with a graduation present like that.”
A college degree is about a lot more than a financial return, but a good one certainly doesn’t hurt.
Hook ‘em Horns,
With more than 52,000 students and many nationally ranked academic programs, The University of Texas at Austin is one of the most productive universities in the United States. But you wouldn’t know it by reading the Center for College Affordability and Productivity’s (CCAP) recently published report, which suggests that if the 80 percent of our faculty that have the lowest teaching load taught half as much as the top 20 percent, tuition could be reduced by half.
The most obvious flaw in this analysis is that the measure of faculty productivity is limited solely to semester credit hours. There is no attempt to measure the quality, and therefore the true productivity, of the learning experience.
At UT, we could easily increase the appearance of efficiency by doing all our teaching in classes of 300 students. According to the CCAP metric, our university would then be far more productive. But what is the goal of a university? At UT, our goal is to provide the most effective learning experience for our undergraduates and graduate students. In addition, we expect our faculty to conduct research to expand knowledge and benefit society.
Let me give one example. As a part of our curriculum reform at UT, we now require all freshmen to complete what we call a First-Year Signature Course. In these courses, taught by senior faculty, students concentrate on writing and speaking, critical thinking, and research. These courses are often taught in small seminars, such as the one that I teach. The CCAP analysis would penalize a faculty member for teaching any small class. Yet exposing our freshmen to a rich learning experience with our best faculty is central to our mission and increases our overall educational productivity.
By the CCAP’s measure a faculty member teaching a class of 300 is 16 times more “productive” than one teaching an 18-student seminar. Our small freshman seminars are labor intensive, but we value the student-faculty interaction, and students tell us they value it, too. The same point could be made regarding upper-division and graduate seminars, which are small and relatively expensive. But we believe that providing high-quality graduate education is important for training the next generation of researchers, scholars, and leaders.
At UT we offer a few classes that are large, some with more than 500 students. But we offer many more small classes: 34 percent have fewer than 20 students, and another 41 percent have between 20 and 49 students. Universities need a healthy balance of class sizes to be efficient while maintaining the quality of our teaching. Therefore it comes as no surprise that a minority of UT instructors teaches a majority of semester credit hours, and there is nothing problematic about this.
Furthermore, our faculty devote large amounts of time to student advising, research, scholarly publications, administrative responsibilities, participation and leadership in national and international organizations, and public service. None of this is measured in the CCAP analysis. Overall productivity is important; the mix of individual contributions to productivity is a tactic to achieve it.
At UT, we are very serious about increasing productivity in teaching, research, business operations, and commercialization of intellectual property. Indeed, among the nation’s 120 leading research universities, we are the 10th most efficient when measuring the amount of tuition and state money we spend to achieve our six-year graduation rate. And we spend less state money and tuition per faculty member than all but one other research university in America.
We welcome all productivity analysis that measures quality—because outstanding teaching and research are our goals. With our state’s largest enrollment, highest ranked programs, and highest four-year graduation rate, we are very productive. And we do this with tuition of less than $10,000 per year while receiving only 14 percent of our budget from state appropriations. However, we’re still not satisfied, and we are implementing multiple initiatives to further improve our efficiency.
For the citizens of Texas, we are a very good investment. Last year, our faculty attracted $648 million in research grants, more than double our current state appropriation of $318 million. When combined with other revenue from tuition, philanthropy, and auxiliary enterprises, taxpayers received the benefit of $5.8 billion in economic activity. All of this comes at an annual cost of about $13 per Texas resident.
It’s curious that advocates for productivity should take aim at one of the most productive universities in the nation. In any event, at The University of Texas at Austin, we welcome productivity analysis that includes measures of academic quality, and we will continue to strive for even greater efficiency and effectiveness.
Earlier this month I was in Houston with Texas A&M President Bowen Loftin to meet with legislators, alumni, and the editorial board of The Houston Chronicle. As many of you know, Texas is facing a large budget shortfall. President Loftin and I are traveling to several key cities in the state to build awareness of the importance of state support for UT Austin and Texas A&M–the only public Tier 1 universities in Texas.
Our message is simple.
In the budget cut earlier this year, higher education in Texas was treated disproportionately compared to other state agencies. Higher education represents only 12.5% of the state budget, but it bore 41% of the budget reductions. We want to do our share, but continuing with disproportionate reductions will erode our state’s universities.
The Research University Development Fund (previously called the Competitive Knowledge Fund) rewards research universities by providing $1 of state support for every $10 earned in external research grants. Our research enterprise provides much needed economic stimulus to the Texas economy. UT and Texas A&M attracted more than $1.3 billion in external research grants to Texas in 2009-10. That’s 62% of all externally funded research at public universities in Texas. The Research University Development Fund is an effective way to support comprehensive research universities in the state.
UT and Texas A&M educate more than 100,000 students every year, that is nearly one of every five public university students in Texas. And our two universities have the lowest administrative costs in Texas—about half the state average.
Finally, UT and Texas A&M each have key building projects. At UT, our highest priority is a new building for our highly ranked engineering program, which would greatly benefit from Tuition Revenue Bond support.
I believe that higher education is an investment in our state’s future. In the months ahead, President Loftin and I will continue our efforts to communicate the crucial importance of preserving the competitiveness of our state’s national research universities. I hope the alumni and friends of both our universities will support us in this endeavor.
We announced a new partnership between the Cactus Cafe and KUT Radio today. I’m excited about this partnership because it addresses a number of student concerns—and it promises a bright future for the Cactus Cafe.
I want to thank all of you who shared your opinions with me during the past several months.
The Cactus Cafe is housed in the Texas Union, which receives about $4.9 million in financial support from student tuition. Many students wanted the Cactus Cafe to be more relevant to them—they wanted more student access to the venue, more diverse music, and more learning opportunities through internships that expose students to the entertainment business. In addition, many students did not want to pay for the Cactus Cafe’s operating losses.
I am proud of the fact that UT listened to the local community. After announcing changes to the venue, we quickly learned that many members of the community cherished the 31-year musical tradition of the Cactus Cafe. So we developed a plan to ensure that our alumni, the university community, and the public will continue to experience what is special about the Cactus.
This is a victory for the students and for the music community. KUT will share the Cactus Cafe experience with national and global audiences through broadcast programs and online features. KUT has a staff that is skilled at music production, fundraising, management, and event promotion, as well as a volunteer base of more than 500 people and more than 250,000 weekly listeners. KUT, which is a division of the College of Communication, will provide student learning experiences through internship and work-study programs.
Starting today, KUT will be in contact with artists, students, the Cactus Cafe staff, and community members for ideas and suggestions. You can contribute your thoughts via email at email@example.com.
I’m glad we are able to preserve the music heritage of the Cactus Cafe, and I look forward to the new opportunities offered by this partnership.
I welcomed about 650 prospective students and their parents to the campus this week. These were outstanding students who have already received acceptance offers from UT, but most have not yet committed to enrolling here.
Within this group were many students at the top of their class and individuals who scored 1400 or better (math and verbal) on their SAT. It may surprise you to know that more than half of the students with SAT scores in excess of 1400 accepted by UT choose to attend a different university. Indeed, in 2008 the majority of students offered one of UT’s most generous scholarships declined to accept. We believe a large number of them receive better scholarship offers—not just from Harvard, Stanford, and Princeton, but also from schools that lack the vast array of opportunities of a world-class research university such as UT.
Many of these young people would love to come to Austin, but the decision hinges on scholarship support. In many cases, Texas loses these outstanding students and future leaders to other states.
The Texas Exes is leading an effort to establish full-ride scholarships to address this problem. Modeled after the Jefferson Scholars program at the University of Virginia and a similar program at the University of North Carolina, the new 40 Acres Scholars Program will fund tuition, housing, books—as well as summer activities in public service, internships, and study abroad. The Texas Exes, our alumni association, is working to raise $150 million for an endowment for this merit-based program to keep some of the best Texas students in Texas.
To learn more, visit the 40 Acres Scholars program website.