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Background Information On The Discussion Of The Future of Higher Education

Posted by Scot Walker '90
8/1/2011
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Members of the Aggie Network have seen recent news reports about debates over the future of higher education in Texas and specifically at the state's two Tier 1 universities.

For the convenience of former students who wish to become better informed about these issues, The Association of Former Students has created this page with links to news articles, official statements and other background information. To share your comments on these issues with the leadership of The Association of Former Students, e-mail Communicate@AggieNetwork.com.

Much discussion has centered on a set of "Seven Breakthrough Solutions" proposed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation to reform higher education in Texas. Most of the seven proposals have been backed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry '72. A short summary of the seven proposals can be found here. A more detailed presentation of the proposals can be found in this document from the TPPF (warning: large pdf file).

A group of 22 Distinguished Alumni of Texas A&M University signed an open letter to the A&M community, opposing the "Seven Solutions" The former students also set up a website called the Alliance for Texas A&M University. The site includes dozens of links to news articles about the proposals. This page on the Alliance site links to op-eds, editorials, letters to the editor, blogs and legislative actions on these topics.

A&M President R. Bowen Loftin '71 and University of Texas President William Powers, Jr. wrote a joint op-ed in February in which they argued that the two universities should be seen as models of efficiency.

Loftin also wrote a newspaper op-ed piece in April in which he said that research and teaching go hand in hand.

The two presidents also recently discussed their reactions to the TPPF reform proposals in a video interview with the Texas Tribune.

TAMU System Board of Regents Chair Richard A. Box '61 issued a statement in April regarding his belief in the importance of teaching, research and service.

On May 13, Gov. Perry distributed an op-ed in which he argued that his administration has been committed to research and that public debates about university excellence and accountability are necessary and healthy.

On May 17, the Council of Principal Investigators for A&M wrote to Box, urging the Board of Regents to ensure that the next chancellor "has appropriate qualifications to lead TAMUS toward our mission and the goal of achieving the objectives of Vision 2020" and asking that a CPI representative be included on the chancellor search committee. The 45 elected CPI members represent more than 2,000 research-active faculty at Texas A&M University and other System affiliates. CPI's letter to Box can be read here.

Regents Chairman Box received a letter in late May from five Texas A&M University professors, co-signed by more than 700 of the university's 2,800 faculty members, asking that he explain "the specific problems that you are trying to solve within the Texas A&M University System using the 'seven solutions.'" Box responded in a letter on May 24, saying there were no specific problems he was trying to solve and telling the faculty, "We are all in this together." The full text of the faculty letter, including the names of the signatories, can be read here (pdf). The Texas Tribune's report on Box's response, including the full text of his letter, can be read here.

The next day, Box issued a System-wide memo to faculty and staff, asking for "patience and trust" and reiterating that any major policy decisions would be made "collaboratively with the faculty, students, administration and staff." The full text of that memo can be found here.

On May 26, Box opened the Board of Regents meeting with additional comments related to these issues. Those remarks can be read here. Later in the meeting, Jaime C. Grunlan, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, made a statement opposing the "Seven Solutions." His full remarks can be read here (pdf). 

On June 17, a group of more than 200 philanthropists, business leaders and other stakeholders announced the formation of the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education. The group describes itself as "a group of concerned citizens who believe strongly in the power of higher education to transform lives, build our economy and shape Texas’ future." Visit the coalition's website here.



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