A House United

UT in its 129th Year: Better and More Efficient

This time last year, not all was content in The University of Texas at Austin community. At his 2011 State of the University address, President Powers borrowed from Abraham Lincoln to describe “a house divided” over our fundamental mission and character. “That, I’m sorry to say, is the state of our University,” Powers said.

He was referring, of course, to disagreements between the UT-Austin family and its critics, who for more than a year were characterizing the University as inefficient and overly invested in research at the expense of teaching.

In the year since, the fault has not been fully repaired, but neither has it caused a quake. At this year’s address, the president articulated how as a flagship public institution UT-Austin manages to balance quality and efficiency.

Quoting Fred Heldenfels, chairman of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Powers said: “Quality without productivity is an empty vision, but productivity without quality is pointless.” As alumni, we are proud that our alma mater and its leadership are so attuned to this balance. When we think of “a university of the first class,” it is not unreasonable to think that such an institution can be both high-quality and efficient.

The good news for alumni is that our University is exceptional and efficient—and getting better at both. UT-Austin performs its mission at the lowest per-student, per-year cost of any university in its 12-school peer group. Last year, UT-Austin produced 9,000 bachelor’s degrees, the most in the state of Texas. Texas taxpayers provide 13 percent of the University’s overall budget, and their investment is leveraged by a factor of 7.7 times, the highest in the state.

Meanwhile, indicator after indicator suggests that our University’s high quality continues to be recognized. U.S. News & World Report ranked UT Austin’s reputation sixth-best among public universities. SmartMoney magazine recently named UT-Austin the third-best value in the country. And in the 2012 World University Rankings, the University jumped from 29 to 25.

Can our reputation improve? Can we be an even better bargain? Can our global prestige still climb? Yes, and as alumni that’s what we should want and expect. But what we should all take from these stats is that while there’s always tension, much more is working than not. Our University is heading in the right direction through its superb leadership.

A year later, our University is more efficient, productive, and selective than before, and it’s on a path to improve even more. If that’s not something that can help heal a divide, what can?






John Beckworth
President, Texas Exes

Photo by Micahl Wyckoff.


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