By John Sharp, Chancellor of The Texas A&M University System
Respect is one of the core values we help instill in every Aggie student, and we at The Texas A&M University System treat our students, their parents, and the taxpayers of Texas with respect when it comes to giving them value for their dollar.
With the start of the 84th Texas legislative session and the inauguration of a new Governor right around the corner, it is a good moment to reflect on the importance of fiscal responsibility by higher education systems, including The Texas A&M University System.
Three years ago, we decided that landscaping, food service and building maintenance could be done more efficiently by the private sector than by the universities in our system. We outsourced these services and over the next 10 to 12 years will save more than $360 million, which we are reinvesting into the core mission of our universities: outstanding teaching and life-changing research. In addition, we formed public-private partnerships for construction projects, meaning we no longer use tax dollars to build our dormitories. Our private partners do that for us.
We also saw that administrative costs at American universities were increasing four to five times faster than academic costs. Therefore, we reviewed all administrative costs and began freezing and cutting administrative positions within the system. To date, our administrative review has identified $230 million in savings opportunities over the next five years, savings that will be utilized to enhance our academics even further. For example, we can offer programs such as engineering in places they have never been offered: in the Rio Grande Valley, in West Texas, and in Stephenville. Today, our administrative overhead is an astonishingly low 3.6 percent, which the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board says is the lowest in the state.
One of our primary goals is to enhance our research mission. Our flagship, Texas A&M, is the largest research university in Texas and the entire Southwest. Through the Chancellor’s Research Initiative (CRI) and the Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Studies we have recruited Nobel Laureates and National Academy members to our classrooms and labs to conduct research into, among other things, regenerative medicine for rebuilding damaged tissue, the use of lasers in agricultural and environmental science, the modeling of new materials for energy storage/production, and the interconnected relationship between agriculture, nutrition, and disease prevention. We recently announced the expansion of the CRI from Texas A&M and Prairie View A&M University to include all campuses across our System, paving the way for more cutting-edge research.
We are doing all of this while keeping the dream of an education at a top-tier university affordable: tuition and fees at Texas A&M rank 10th in the state, behind Lamar University in Beaumont, for example. Furthermore, we guarantee the tuition and fees a student starts with to remain the same for four years.
At the Texas A&M System, we know why we are here: to create the best universities in our nation, and we are well on our way. No other university system in the state or the country does more than we do to respect taxpayers and their hard-earned dollars while providing a first-class educational experience. To our students, their parents, and all Texas taxpayers, our message is clear: we want your legislators to know that when they send your tax dollars to the Texas A&M University System, we will treat those dollars with respect.