Higher Ed Makes Headlines at Conference on the Forty Acres

UT’s campus became the epicenter of Texas public policy debates over the weekend as the Forty Acres hosted the second-annual Texas Tribune Festival.

The conference—the rough equivalent of an ACL Music Festival for policy wonks—brought together elected officials, activists, academics, reporters, students, and other participants in the public sphere.

More than 100 panelists talked about energy, education, transportation, public health, criminal justice, and immigration—with thousands more watching.

But naturally, it was the frank talk about higher education that The Alcalde found most interesting.

With the 83rd session of the Texas Legislature approaching, lawmakers and administrators used the festival to send definite signals about what issues will be up for debate, and what their positions might be.

Gov. Rick Perry was there, asserting both his love for UT and the authority of President Bill Powers over it. He also made a headline-grabbing call for four-year fixed-rate college tuition.

The chairs of the Joint Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence, and Transparency, state Rep. Dan Branch and state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, were on hand, too. They said many of the higher ed buzzwords— including accountability, affordability, outcomes, and completion—hinting that issues like graduation rates will be major ones for the legislature.

And there was the historic convening of all six chancellors of Texas’ public university systems. Rarely if ever do they all come together to talk, especially for a candid panel, and the resulting conversation was fascinating.

Of course, as most conferences are these days, the Twitterverse was on fire at the festival. Here are the highlights of what higher-ed watchers tweeted.

Texas Tech University System chancellor Kent Hance (left) and UT System chancellor Francisco Cigarroa. Photo by Ricky Llanas/the Daily Texan



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