Archive for the ‘Higher education’ Tag

Why UT-Austin Shouldn’t Raise Its Tuition   1 comment

The Texas Tribune


Guest Column: Why UT-Austin Shouldn’t Raise Its Tuition


University of Texas System Regent, Alex Cranberg

University of Texas System Regent, Alex Cranberg

The University of Texas System is an extraordinary institution. It educates more than 200,000 students, mostly from Texas, and it conducts an enormous amount of groundbreaking research. The cumulative impact of the education of young people and the research output of the thousands of brilliant faculty is prodigious and valuable. I could not be prouder of the University of Texas diploma on my wall, representing as it does not only knowledge and thinking skills gained but also the symbol of the four joyous and challenging years I spent growing as a person and learning about myself and others. What a gift the founders of Texas gave our state in establishing “a University of the first class.” It is a special privilege for me to serve on my university system‘s board of regents (although the views expressed here are mine personally and not necessarily those of other board members).

Over the 35 years since I graduated, many measures of the quality of UT-Austin have grown dramatically. But tuition has also increased — by more than 80 percent over just the past eight years. I am forever grateful to the university and to the state of Texas for giving me the opportunity to be able to pay my own way through school and graduate almost debt free. Today’s students are not typically so lucky.

It is fashionable to blame higher tuition on legislative tight-fistedness, but the facts simply do not support that charge.  Nationally, state support for higher education has roughly kept pace with general inflation over the past 20 years. Some pushing for higher student tuition tend to point out that state support of higher education has dropped substantially as a share of total revenues. That is true, but only because educational costs have increased much faster than inflation and federally funded research budgets have grown substantially, making state support naturally account for a much smaller portion of the entire budget.

At UT-Austin, generous philanthropists and state-granted lands have endowed the university with extraordinary additional pillars of support that other institutions could only dream about. Even intercollegiate athletics, often a loss-maker, provide meaningful support for academic programs. Finally, a little-noticed change in the admissions practice at UT-Austin is shifting many slots previously allocated to Texas residents, who pay $10,000 per year, to nonresidents, who pay $33,000 per year.

During the past 10 years, after inflation, investment income and university funds available for operations (i.e., over and above capital expenditures) have grown by $2,100 per student. State support has dropped by only $1,300 per student, partly due to nonresident students not being subsidized by the state. Roughly two-thirds of state funding cuts are either tied to or offset by increased nonresident tuition. The $3,300-per-year tuition increase families are already paying is simply not justified by reductions in state support — and nor is possibility of further increases.

The public is told by some that holding the line on tuition will imperil much-needed student programs, hold back research or result in a “dumbing down” of the university. The actual data demonstrate that this is a fundamentally misleading position. Instructional revenues are going up, even without tuition increases. State funding cuts are frequently cited by those asking for more money from students — despite the negative consequences of even higher tuition on student access. Yes, there are plenty of students willing to pay the tuition at UT even if it increased further. But is that what the founders of Texas had in mind for their “University of the first class”? The Texas Constitution does not famously promise its citizens a “University of the upper class.”

We can earn financial support from other parts of society than students facing an uncertain job market. We can enhance learning productivity, better reward our faculty and have an even bigger positive influence on the world by harnessing technology even more innovatively than we do now. We do not need to increase tuition.

It is a competitive world. I love the University of Texas too much to see others take the lead. I expect the Texas Legislature, the University of Texas System and our many dedicated, inspired faculty, staff and administrators will continue to work together to find ways actually to cut students’ outlay and increase quality of learning so that UT students may be even more blessed by the UT opportunity than I have been.

Alex Cranberg sits on the University of Texas System Board of Regents.


We need to encourage and reward performance   Leave a comment

“We need to encourage and reward performance,” regent Alex Cranberg said.

As noted in the Texas Tribune article regarding Tenured UT System faculty members and their evaluations.

Alex Cranberg to Speak at the Texas Tribune Festival This Saturday   Leave a comment

Texas Tribune Festival

Public & Higher Education


A Colloquy About Higher Education Reform with UT Regent Alex Cranberg and UT Austin President Bill Powers.

Alex Cranberg is the chairman of Aspect Holdings, a Denver-based private energy investment and exploration company, and founded the Alliance for Choice in Education, which provides scholarships for private and parochial schooling for children from low-income families. In February, Gov. Rick Perry appointed him to the University of Texas System Board of Regents. Read the rest of this entry »

Alex Cranberg, Accompanied Gov. Perry to a Function with Supporters in Aspen Colorado.   Leave a comment

Alex Cranberg

Alex Cranberg, accompanied Gov. Perry to a function with supporters in Aspen Colorado.

Alex M. Cranberg, Austin, Texas, Was Appointed by Governor Rick Perry   Leave a comment

Alex M. Cranberg, Austin, Texas, was appointed to a six-year term on The University of Texas System Board of Regents by Governor Rick Perry in February 2011.

Regent Cranberg serves as a member of the Audit, Compliance, and Management Review Committee; Facilities Planning and Construction Committee; Finance and Planning Committee; and Technology Transfer and Research Committee.

Alex Cranberg quoted in Texas Budget Source   2 comments

Cigarroa receives wide support for reforms

Curt W. Olson

The debate that raged over the cost, productivity, and efficiency of higher education in Texas calmed swiftly Thursday with the announcement of a higher education excellence and reform agenda branded the “Texas Plan.”

“It’s visionary. Some might consider it radical,” said University of Texas System Regent Alex Cranberg, who served on the Task Force on University Excellence and Productivity.

And yes, some even see it as a model for higher education systems across the nation to emulate.

Dr. John Mendelsohn, now past president of the UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, called it “a blueprint for the nation, not just Texas, after hearing the presentation from UT System Chancellor Dr. Francisco Cigarroa.

The Task Force on Blended and Online Learning proposed a $50 million investment for the Institute for Transformational Learning, which would utilize technology for more strategic instruction. It was embraced in Cigarroa’s Framework for Excellence Action Plan.

This was part of more than $240 million in expenses regents approved Thursdsay directed to implement the plan.

Cigarroa’s plan generated unanimous support from all sides of the debate over the future over higher education that has raged for six months — sometimes quite fiercely.

More than one regent described the situation as stressful at times.

“Texas finds itself at the epicenter of the national debate on the future of higher education,” Cigarroa said. “I also firmly believe no university system is better poised than the University of Texas System to lead the debate and offer solutions to benefit our students, faculty and staff.”

The debate over higher education fiscal accountability and affordability has generated vigorous debate.

One side featured the higher education establishment, confronting record college debt for students, higher tuition and, and the need for greater accountability and transparency for outcomes. Higher education leaders have multiple allies in the Texas Legislature.

Jeff Sandefer and Rick O’Donnell, who challenged higher education leaders to reform higher education’s model with some new ideas, led the challenge to higher education.

Sandefer wrote a paper for the Austin-based Texas Public Policy Foundation titled “Seven Breakthrough Solutions.” Sandefer is a board member for the Foundation. O’Donnell has been a senior research fellow at the Foundation.

Sandefer, O’Donnell and the small-government, market think tank had allies who agreed that students were being forgotten and the primary mission of universities and colleges is to teach students.

Cigarroa explained the nine elements to his plan, including:
• Undergraduate student access and success
• Faculty/ administrators/staff excellence
• Research
• Productivity and efficiency
• Strategic information and infrastructure and investments
• Enhance philanthropic success
• Ph.D. programs
• The Health of Texas
• Expand educational and health opportunities in South Texas

Cigarroa challenged each institution in the UT System to increase the number of degrees conferred and to reduce the financial impact on students and families while doing it.

“One size doesn’t fit all,” Cigarroa repeated several times during his presentation to the board of regents Thursday morning.

He noted that in the past month UT-Austin President Bill Powers has established a task force to draft ideas. He said what works for UT-Austin may not work at other campuses, but each president is called on to do this.

The overriding goal is to reduce the time to a student earning their degree while reducing costs.

This is where information technology could prove pivotal for the UT System. The Institute of Transformational Learning will play a key role in improving guidance counseling options for students and generating other data useful to help a student and their parents.

The Institute will also generate information useful for measuring productivity with an interactive database — or dashboard — with information to help make decisions, Cigarroa said.

The UT System will conduct a search for a director for this new area.

The plan not only had the full support of the board of regents, but it also was supported by Dr. Tim Allen, leader of the faculty, and Melinda Hill Perrin, a member of the operating committee of the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education.

Perrin said no one supports the status quo.

She encouraged regents to give UT System leaders the freedom, flexibility and time to execute this plan.

“Wouldn’t it be a wonderful outcome, if plan—the Texas plan—could push the UT system to become the No. 1 system in the country?” Perrin asked. “Let’s work together to make that happen.”

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, praised the plan as aggressive and challenging, but quite feasible.

Cigarroa’s reforms also have support of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

“We especially appreciate the focus on improving four-year graduation rates. Improvements in academic advising and the expansion of online learning should help more students complete their degrees sooner, reduce student debt burdens, and increase the number of students able to attend UT System institutions.

“Chancellor Cigarroa’s action plan is the first step of many that will be needed for Texas public universities to achieve the important goals of greater transparency and accountability, improved use of resources, more world-class research and high-quality graduates, and reduced cost of higher education to students and taxpayers. Today’s positive presentation is the beginning of the reform process, not the end – but it is a very good start.”

Gov. Rick Perry also likes the Cigarroa plan, and the governor’s office released the following statement.

“The plan unveiled today reflects important steps toward both increasing productivity and improving academic quality in The University of Texas System, and I applaud Chancellor Cigarroa and everyone involved for their hard work in this effort. Moving forward, we need to continue focusing on efficient, innovative strategies to help make high-quality college degrees more affordable and attainable for all Texans. That’s a vital part of maintaining a world-class workforce, and continuing to attract employers and high-quality jobs to our state.”

Texas Budget Source is affiliated with the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

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Alex Cranberg in San Antonio Express News: Brokered Deal with MyEdu   2 comments

UT board approves changes. Plan aims to boost productivity, academics.

By Melissa Ludwig

The University of Texas Board of Regents approved an action plan Thursday to raise quality and productivity at its 15 institutions in an era of declining revenues, fortifying the effort with $243 million in strategic investments.

After months of public squabbling over how best to reform academia, regents unanimously backed the framework created by Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and said they would give him latitude to work.

“Chancellor, I think the ball is yours,” said Gene Powell, chairman of the board of regents and a San Antonio businessman.

The plan pleased higher education boosters and critics alike, including Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative Austin think tank that’s served as a brain trust for those seeking radical changes in the state’s higher education.

“The plan unveiled today reflects important steps toward both increasing productivity and improving academic quality in the University of Texas System, and I applaud Chancellor Cigarroa and everyone involved for their hard work in this effort,” Perry said in a statement.

Cigarroa said the plan is meant to set goals, not dictate how they are achieved. A deadline looms for defining and achieving each benchmark.

“One size does not fit all,” Cigarroa said. “The innovation, the creativity of how to address these issues … is dependent on the creative leadership of our presidents and faculty.”

Accountability steps

To help monitor the plan’s success, the system set aside $10 million to build a user-friendly “dashboard” that university presidents and citizens alike can use to access real-time productivity and success metrics at the system, university, departmental and even individual faculty level.

The dashboard will include salaries, number of credit hours taught and student evaluation scores of individual professors, data that kicked up controversy when they were first released to the public.

But unlike the previously released database, which presented a snapshot in time, the dashboard will include historical data to show trends over the years.

“You will be able to see the full contributions of (faculty), our greatest assets,” Cigarroa said.

It also could help provosts decide where to allocate resources and department heads make decisions about staffing, Powell said.

Faculty productivity has been one of the hottest topics of debate, with critics claiming many professors spend too much time on frivolous research and not enough time teaching.

The plan calls for strengthening post-tenure review, conducting outside audits of academic departments, and tweaking the pay structure to better reward performance. The plan also expands teaching excellence awards and allocates more money to recruit top-notch faculty.

Tim Allen, chairman of the UT System Faculty Advisory Council, said faculty “embrace the spirit of the recommendations.”

“UT can benefit from clear, unambiguous guidelines regarding, research, teaching and service,” Allen said. “Some despair that we are not capable of accurately measuring (those duties). It is not beyond our capacity.”

To increase student success, the plan calls for increased degree production, higher four-year graduation rates and tuition policies that reward students for graduating within that time frame. Speeding time to degree for Ph.D. students is a priority as well.

The plan also demands more careful enrollment management, which could mean higher entrance standards at regional universities, and asks universities to find ways to reduce student debt and issue financial disclosure statements to increase transparency.

Money for online

Recognizing that technology could revolutionize education, regents dedicated $50 million to create an Institute for Transformational Learning, which will dole out competitive grants to develop high-quality online and blended courses, and to use technology to improve learning outcomes in large, gateway courses.

The idea sprang from a task force on online and blended learning chaired by Regent Wallace Hall, who said UT must compete in the online sphere or risk being left behind.

UT’s online brand must be “synonymous with excellence,” Hall said.

Ideas from two task forces on online learning and productivity and efficiency were blended into Cigarroa’s framework.

Regent Alex Cranberg, who sat on the productivity task force, helped broker a $10 million deal with an Austin-based company called MyEdu to provide custom, private-label services for UT that include electronic advising, degree planning and cost calculators.

Some of the data collected by MyEdu, including grades issued for each class, will likely be incorporated into the dashboard.

In terms of research, the framework encourages institutions to collaborate more freely and for the system’s four emerging research universities, including UTSA, to formulate business plans for reaching Tier One status.

Because philanthropy will play a bigger role in a time of declining state revenues, the plan sets aside $9 million to beef up development offices with experienced fundraisers.

The plan also allocates money to improve technology infrastructure and computational power.

Part of the $243 million investment will boost health and science education in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, who has openly criticized Chairman Powell for micromanaging and stirring up what she deemed “unnecessary controversy,” said she hoped the plan would unite stakeholders and calm the upheaval of the last six months.

“The controversy was unnecessary and a distraction,” said Zaffirini, who attended the meeting. “I hope the vote means regents will allow chancellors and presidents to do their job.”

Powell said he’s not bothered by the “slings and arrows” pointed at him. In his opinion, the debate churned up some great ideas.

“I would go through it all again,” Powell said.

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