Some Things Change—But UT’s Great Value Doesn’t

William O’Hara, BBA ’68, Life Member, a lecturer in the McCombs School of Business, explains why UT has always been a great value—and why alumni support is more vital now than ever.

When I look back on my own experiences at the McCombs School of Business (then the CBA: College of Business Administration) some 40-plus years ago, I am tempted to dwell only on what has changed:

  • Jester Dormitory was then the intramural fields.
  • I-35 was then a single-deck Interregional Highway.
  • The CBA building was called the BEB: Business and Economics Building and had no atrium.
  • MoPac was then just the Missouri-Pacific Railway.
  • The MOD computer lab was then just a bunch of tab-card punching machines out in the hallway, marking the advent of the computer generation.
  • The Bass Concert Hall was then Clark Field, home of the Longhorn Baseball team, which included a 10-foot cliff in the outfield that was “in-play.”

Some things have indeed changed!

One big thing that has not changed is the value of a degree from The University of Texas at Austin. It was a door-opener then and is a big door-opener now for our graduates. It is highly respected by recruiters and the firms that they represent. It is highly respected within many professions. The Department of Accounting, for example, has continually maintained its #1 ranking in terms of undergraduates, graduates, and PhD students while the entire world of business has changed and evolved. There are so many examples of our graduates who have achieved great things, and their numbers continue to grow.

These achievements are no accident—this success owes itself to three factors:

  • Our ability to recruit and retain the absolute best faculty and the valuable research they perform.
  • Our ability to attract the very best students.
  • And the generous support of our alumni.

Some things indeed stay the same!

I have been fortunate and blessed in my 33-year business career because of my experiences here. I am even more fortunate and blessed now to have been a member of the faculty here since 2003. How much better can it get than to return to your alma mater on the other side of the lectern, get to spend a few days a week on this beautiful campus and interact with our wonderful students? In spite of what I may have accomplished in business, this is by far the most personally rewarding experience I have had.

This also gives me a different perspective than most, and when I look to the future of this University, I begin to get worried.

I am worried that things will change, but not in the direction we all want.

You see, this University is approaching a business model which, in my opinion, is not sustainable. Costs continue to rise, as they do everywhere, and the operating costs here have already been pared to the bone. Funding by our legislature (a Texas constitutional mandate, by the way) is being reduced every two years and is down 41 percent in real dollars since 1985.

If you believe that “value” is a combination of quality and price, a University of Texas education is one of the best values in America. However, it cannot be priced at a market rate because the Board of Regents and the legislature control tuition. As a general result of the current condition of the U.S. economy, research grants are at a reduced level.

That leads to the only remaining source of revenue—the generosity of our alumni. As I said earlier, the generosity of our alumni is one of our great strengths. However, we are all obviously going to have to do more. We, the alumni, are the caretakers and stewards of this great University. We need to preserve this great experience we all had for future generations.

The UT Tower clock. Photo by Phil Roeder on Flickr.


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