HOUSTON CHRONICLE NEWS
Editorial notebook: A conversation with the heads of higher education in Texas.
The Chronicle editorial board Monday visited with the chancellors of Texas’ six public university systems. They are traveling the state before the legislative session begins, discussing Texas’ needs in higher education and what steps the Legislature must take. The conversation touched on a variety of topics, but the key focus was on the need for more funding and flexibility. Here are some excerpts. Also see our editorial: http://www.chron.com/opinion/editorials/article/United-chancellors-6010719.php
Texas Tech Chancellor Robert Duncan, on overall goals during the legislative session: I think that the dialogue has to be … about where we want Texas to be and how competitive we want Texas to be in higher education, in all our institutions, including our flagships.
Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp, on competing with California: I’ve been trying to figure out why it is that any business stays in California with the business climate, the income taxes and all those kind of things. And you look at the recruitment that we’ve tried to do from California, that other states have tried to do, and they won’t leave those big research universities. That’s what California has. When (Texas) can promise them everything in the world: We will lower your taxes, we will lower your red tape. But (people say) “I’m not leaving Stanford because that’s where my research is.”
I’ve been very encouraged by the conversations I’ve had with Greg Abbott about how you change that dynamic and how you start saying: We need to bring brilliant minds into this state. Maybe along with recruiting businesses, let’s see if we can recruit some of those folks from different places and stuff like that. And I think he’s going to lay out a plan that does exactly that.
Texas State University Chancellor Brian McCall, on the need for more funding: Facilities have been a big part of it. There has been no controversy about facilities. If you look at what each of us are asking for, it is not something that can be taught online. Almost unanimously, we’re asking for engineering labs and STEM-related buildings. And so to get to where California is, we need the capacity to train engineers.
University of Houston Chancellor Renu Khator, on balancing teaching and research: Every single month, I have a foreign delegation in my office, and what they want to know is: How can we create an American-style university?
Now, what is that American style? And I think that American style is the enmeshing of the undergraduate piece and the research piece. The two things are so tangled that they infuse the culture, a very different kind of culture, and that is what other countries are very hungry for.
So I don’t think the debate should ever be that the two things are mutually exclusive, research versus education. I think the debate has to be as to what is the next frontier in higher education. American higher education has always been at the very cutting edge; it is the best product of America.
University of Texas Chancellor William McRaven, on controlling administrative growth: I want to understand how everybody in the UT system administration supports the individual institutions. In fact, one of the first letters I sent out to the administration staff was that if we don’t wake up every day and find out that we’re adding value to our individual institutions, then I want to go and ask why. And in fact, I intend to – well, I’ll lay this out; I haven’t talked to the board yet – but I intend to form a committee to take a look at exactly that issue. And I’m going to form that committee from people from the universities and health science centers. I want them to come and check my homework.
University of North Texas Chancellor Lee Jackson, on in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants: I’m going to ask legislators and state officials to at least study the underlying economics and decide whether any changes in the DREAM act would be consistent with the goals that are being set through the revised Closing the Gaps that the (Texas Higher Education) Coordinating Board has set for increased enrollment, increased graduation.