Questions of value are at the center of the ongoing higher education debate in Texas. Is a college degree worth the cost? Do public universities provide a quality education?
The answer to both questions, according to voters, is largely “yes.” In a poll released today by the Texas Lyceum, a non-profit, non-partisan leadership group, Texans voiced strong support for their public universities.
The poll found that 77 percent of registered voters in the state consider Texas public universities, including UT-Austin, to be good or among the best in the nation. The poll asked respondents about election-year issues, including three questions related to higher education.
Some 42 percent of voters think students don’t get a fair return on their investment, while 43 percent believe college is worth the cost, leaving 15 percent undecided or with no opinion. The question did not distinguish between public, private, or community colleges.
College costs have risen considerably in the past decade, with tuition increasing 55 percent since deregulation in 2003. Voters were split on what, if anything to do about tuition. 46 percent of voters in the survey support re-regulating tuition. 30 percent favor keeping tuition deregulated but investing more to support low-income students. 18 percent believe tuition should remain deregulated with no changes.
A number of proposals have emerged to combat rising costs, including Governor Perry’s endorsement of a $10,000 degree at Texas public universities and his recent call for four-year fixed-rate tuition. In May, UT System regents froze in-state undergraduate tuition at UT-Austin for two years.
In response to the rising costs of higher education at a time when enrollment continues to grow, UT-Austin has worked to improve student access and success while controlling costs. Through the UT System’s “Framework for Advancing Excellence” as well as the establishment of the Vice Provost for Higher Education Policy, among other reforms, the University has worked to modernize and improve its performance and accountability.
“Texans should not have to have to leave our state to go to an internationally acclaimed university,” UT-Austin President Bill Powers said in his State of the University address last week. “In UT, Texas has a treasure.”
You can view the full poll results here.
Photo from Flickr Creative Commons.