Texas Exes Stand Up for a University of the First Class
For 127 years, Texas Exes have served as champions of The University of Texas. On occasion, we have reminded our fellow Texans why our alma mater exists and the good it does our state. In the past year, as Texas has participated in the national debate about cost and access in higher education, we have once again stepped forward to articulate the value of The University of Texas, and, in particular, its value as a top-tier teaching and research university.
It is no news that funding for state services is under all-time pressure. A growing population means more people are clamoring for finite resources, and that puts appropriate pressure on all state agencies to do more with less. In this time of limited public funding, an adequate and affordable college degree is necessary.
But The University of Texas has a specific primary purpose: to be the best. Not for bragging rights, although we all know that matters to Texans, but because that’s what it takes to compete in today’s global economy. Texas’ intellectual capital and the positive economic impact it creates are as mobile as the next plane flight.
The University of Texas is the flagship of the 15-member UT System. Schematically, it sits at the top of the System, and first among 37 other public universities in Texas. The University of Texas is designed to be the best Texas has to offer, and it competes with the top public institutions in America and the world.
This is by design. The Texas Constitution—our constitution—does not direct the maintenance of an adequate university, a second-class university, or a state school that will do in a pinch. It mandates a “university of the first class.” Our state’s founders knew that such a school would be instrumental in keeping Texas’ intellectual capital right here in the Lone Star State.
What has spurred Texas Exes to action once again is the growth of a gap between what the constitution prescribes for the University’s future (preeminent, competitive, rigorous) and what form some critics of the University would like it to take (large, cheap, accessible).
While UT is committed to delivering a first-class education in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible, it is not the right institution to experiment with vastly expanding access to higher education. Our University should be focused on being a better top-tier university than the leading research universities both nationally and globally.
Thanks to the work of many generations, The University of Texas comes amazingly close to its constitutional mandate. It attracts some of the best students in Texas and around the world, and it educates them to improve lives for the benefit of society. It employs some of the very best teachers and researchers in the world, who are working to tackle the big problems facing our state and nation. According to the Texas Comptroller’s office, every dollar of state funding returns $18 to the Texas economy. In short, The University of Texas is one of our state’s great success stories.
We are justly proud of our alma mater’s performance, leadership, faculty, and students. Texas Exes have a rich history of standing up for the University, and we will continue to safeguard its constitutional mandate.
We are here—as alive, vigilant, and vital as ever. That’s what Texas and The University of Texas deserve.
John Beckworth is the president of the Texas Exes.
Photo by Micahl Wyckoff.