In May, the UT System Board of Regents made multiple decisions that will have a dramatic impact on the Forty Acres. What they got right, where they went wrong, and the unintentional consequences for UT-Austin.
The regents voiced their support for a new UT-Austin medical school in the way that matters most: money. They voted to back the effort with $30 million annually for eight years (and $25 million each year after that). After a year of community groundswell, the move was the first major step toward turning talk into reality. Texas Sen. Kirk Watson, who has spearheaded the government effort, praised the decision, saying, “This is an exciting, extraordinary vote that will help define Austin as a center for 21st-century health care excellence.”
Tuition hikes are no one’s favorite thing, but as state funding trickles away, UT desperately wanted one—and didn’t get it. The regents froze in-state undergrad tuition for two years and raised out-of-state undergrad tuition less than UT wanted (2.1 percent vs. UT’s requested 2.6 percent). Graduate and professional students will pay 3.6 percent more. While some students may breathe a sigh of relief, University officials worry about lacking funds for crucial programs. Raising tuition, they say, would fund programs that enable students to graduate sooner—and to save money on college. “Every penny of our proposal would be directed toward student success programs … which itself [reduces] the cost of higher education,” UT President Bill Powers said after the regents’ meeting.
And a swing…
After Powers expressed disappointment at the tuition freeze, a Texas Monthly blogger set off a social media frenzy when he wrote that an anonymous source said Powers’ job was in jeopardy. Thousands of students and alumni voiced their support for Powers on Facebook and Twitter; the Texas Exes called on all alumni to contact the regents. Things quieted down when Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said Powers’ job wasn’t on the line after all. But it wasn’t wasted energy: about 175 alumni joined the UT Advocates program.
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