Kiplinger’s ranks the top 100 four-year schools that combine outstanding education with economic value. The journal factors in admission rates, percentage of students who return for their sophomore year, student-faculty ratio, and four-year graduation rate. The rankings also examine tuition and fees, financial aid offerings, and average student debt at graduation.
A university is only a good value if it provides a high-quality education. UT Austin currently ranks 27th in the world according to Times Higher Education and 26th in the world according to the Center for World University Rankings. We should take great pride in these assessments.
Before we break for Thanksgiving, I want to tell everyone in the Longhorn family – students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends – how thankful I am for you. Because of your combined efforts and your dedication, Texas has a vibrant university of the first class, and that is something for which all Texans can give thanks.
There’s no more appropriate time than Thanksgiving to share this short video with you. In it, UT students express their feelings on “Thanks Day,” which this year fell on November 13 and which marks the day on which our students’ education would end for the school year if we had to depend solely on tuition and state funding. It’s heartwarming.
Lastly, let’s get our Horns up high for a big Thanksgiving night win against Texas Tech and show the Longhorns we’re behind them all the way.
Happy Thanksgiving and Hook ’em Horns!
On Tuesday, I had the honor of beginning my year of service as chairman of the Association of American Universities. To mark the occasion, I contributed an op-ed to the Houston Chronicle expressing my hopes for a new national investment in higher education. I’d like to share it with you here and below:
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Today, I’m proud to begin my one-year service as chairman of the Association of American Universities. Since 1900, the AAU has been the chief promoter of the American research university, and the University of Texas at Austin is one of just 62 current members.
In American higher education, there is no issue more critical than affordability. Gov. Rick Perry has made it a priority and President Barack Obama has as well. It concerns me, as it should every leader in higher education and all who understand the crucial role a college education plays in social mobility and national productivity.
In August, the White House published its College Scorecard, an interactive tool families can use to evaluate college options. UT-Austin fares well with a high graduation rate and a below-the-median cost.
In the final analysis, there are only two main ways to decrease the price tag of college for students: 1) decreasing operational costs and 2) increasing support from nontuition sources. Obama has called on universities to control their costs, and at UT, we are doing that. For example, we are undergoing a major initiative to reduce the costs of our operations by consolidating our staff so that multiple departments can share the expertise of specialists in human resources, information technology, procurement and accounting. Universities are behind the business sector in modernizing these functions, and we will all benefit from catching up.
But holding the line on costs — even cutting costs — is not sufficient for the needs of the future. We must also increase support for higher education from nontuition sources. These sources fall into four main categories: philanthropy, research grants, nontraditional revenue sources (such as licensing our discoveries or merchandising our brand) and public funding.
On this last count, we all have reason for alarm. In the last 25 years, student enrollment at state universities across America has grown by 62 percent, while total public funding has increased by only 2 percent. Consequently, state funding per student has dropped by 30 percent in those 25 years. And this is not a matter of our collective wealth, but rather, a matter of priorities: Nationally, state support per $1,000 of personal income has dropped by 37 percent. We cannot continue to decrease public funding across the nation and then express shock when the price to students goes up or we fall behind our competitors around the world.
We are witnessing a massive, historic public disinvestment in higher education. In spite of that, higher education is still doing amazing things. In Texas, economists have estimated that our state receives a 21-to-1 return on investment from UT-Austin. That is, for the state’s annual investment of about $300 million, it gets a university that contributes $6.4 billion to the economy through direct and indirect spending by staff, faculty and students.
The reasons for this disinvestment are many and include state- and federally mandated programs that have eaten deeply into the amount over which state legislatures have discretion. Those mandates likely are not going away. But if legislators realized the massive return on investment they are already getting from higher education, they would be going “all in” with public funding like a poker player with the best hand of his life. Of course, it is not just a matter of “throwing money at a problem.” We must be smart and targeted in our spending; but make no mistake, we must invest resources in higher education.
University administrations need to aggressively control higher education’s cost. But the responsibility for the cost of public higher education also rests with the public. Higher education affordability should be a nationally shared priority. State governments should begin making up lost ground by returning to their historical investment levels for higher education. It will help hold the line on the cost to students, and it’s the best investment of public dollars we can possibly make.
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Thank you for your support as I enter this exciting new year of national visibility for The University of Texas at Austin.
Hook ’em Horns,
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.