Category Archives: Innovation

Runaway tuition: A challenge for students, parents and schools



University of Iowa
1981-82 cost: $1,834
Inflation adjusted: $4,538
2011-12 cost: $8,750
Additional cost beyond inflation: $4,212

Iowa State University
1981-82 cost: $1,640
Inflation adjusted: $4,058
2011-12 cost: $7,622
Additional cost beyond inflation: $3,564

University of Northern Iowa
1981-82 cost: $1,520
Inflation adjusted: $3,761
2011-12 cost: $7,426
Additional cost beyond inflation: $3,665

If other things jumped in cost that much …

1981 cost: $1.48
Inflation-adjusted: $3.66
2011 actual cost: $2.49

1981 cost: $0.84
Inflation-adjusted: $2.08
2011 actual cost: $1.49

1981 cost: $2.24
Inflation-adjusted: $5.54
2011 actual cost: $3.19

Iowa’s two largest universities expect to pocket millions of dollars in extra tuition revenue next fiscal year, with the vast majority going to pay for additional faculty, programs aimed at lowering dropout rates and other student services, officials said.

That decision comes as the cost of earning a four-year degree in Iowa at a public university continues a steep march upward and pushes students to take on more debt, which, at $26,066 per graduating student, is the fourth-highest average in the country.

In the past 30 years, the average cost of tuition and fees at an Iowa public university has jumped 707 percent, more than four times the rate of inflation. College costs have increased each of the past 30 years for students and their families. Continue reading

A_M System Regents Set to Meet Thursday – Box Wants Open and Honest Dialogue Regarding “Seven Breakthrough Solutions.

Thursday marks a big set of meetings for the Texas A_M System Board of Regents.

Among the items on the agenda are discussions differential tuition increases for four A_M colleges — architecture, business, engineering, and veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences. Continue reading

Study Finds Reallocation of Resources Lowers Tuition In Higher Ed

Lower Prices in Higher ED - Times of Texas

A new study was released Monday by the D.C.-based Center for College Affordability and Productivity The bottom line is this: by incorporating even modest changes in the teaching work loads of the least productive professors would bring about substantial cost reductions in tuition and state taxpayer money while not tampering with tenure or the world class research being done at the university. UT-Austin, for example, would remain a solid Tier One research university.

Pew Research polls indicate that the value of a college degree is questioned by a growing percentage of Americans. A majority believe that higher education is no longer affordable and that it doesn’t deliver a good value. Continue reading

Texas Higher Ed Needs Restructuring

By JONATHAN COOPERSMITH – Special to The Eagle

Lemons - Times of Texas

If life hands you lemons, make lemonade. From that perspective, the unexpected and possibly involuntary resignation of Mike McKinney as the chancellor of the Texas A_M System provides the opportunity to rethink the structure of public university education in Texas. The result could save taxpayers millions of dollars and produce better universities.

The Texas A_M and University of Texas systems comprise 20 institutions (excluding medical centers, extension services and other agencies). Both the A_M and UT systems are dominated by their flagship, Tier 1 research universities. Continue reading

Room For Improvement At The University of Texas at Austin


An interesting new study highlights the vast disparities in teaching and research at UT:

Unbalanced Scales - Times of Texas

Looking only at the UT Austin campus, if the 80 percent of the faculty with the lowest teaching loads were to teach just half as much as the 20 percent with the highest loads, and if the savings were dedicated to tuition reduction, tuition could be cut by more than half (or, alternatively, state appropriations could be reduced even more—by as much as 75 percent). Moreover, other data suggest a strategy of reemphasizing the importance of the undergraduate teaching function can be done without importantly reducing outside research funding or productivity. Continue reading

Continued Controversy – UT, A_M Faculty Productivity Criticized in Studies — and Studies Criticized, too


Two new studies say that professors at Texas’ top public universities aren’t very productive — but critics say those studies are flawed.

Empty Classroom - Times of Texas

The studies — one examining the University of Texas at Austin , the other highlighting Texas A_M University — come during intense academic and political debate over the mission and performance of the state’s flagship public universities.

The Center for College Affordability and Productivity, a nonprofit research group, found that only a small portion of UT-Austin faculty teach the majority of classes. Some faculty do almost no teaching, nor do they bring in many outside research dollars.

“There is clearly room for improvement in terms of faculty productivity,” Richard Vedder, the center’s director and an Ohio University economist, said in a statement. “Simply by having faculty teach more students or courses, students and taxpayers will benefit significantly by reduced university costs.” Continue reading

Newt Gingrich, Citing Rick Perry Comeback, Insists Campaign Still Very Much Alive

By Todd J. Gillman/Reporter

After a rocky first week as a presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich pointed this morning to Texas for inspiration – specifically, to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s come-from-behind landslide in last year’s GOP primary.

The Perry-Gingrich nexus is unusually tight. Rob Johnson , who ran Perry’s campaign, is now running the former House speaker‘s bid for president; Gingrich brought him along for breakfast with reporters at a hotel near the White House.

“Rob Johnson,” Gingrich said, “…was Rick Perry’s campaign manager when Perry began 27 points behind Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison , who Washington `knew’ was going to win, and ended up beating her by 21. Now, we don’t expect quite that big a swing against President Obama, but we could. Things’ll be interesting.” Continue reading

Data Shows Massive Disparity in Professor Productivity at UT-Austin

By Sibyl West | by Richard Vedder, Christopher Matgouranis, Jonathan Robe

If bottom 80 percent were half as productive as top 20 percent, tuition could be cut in half

Victoria Falls - Times of Texas

AUSTIN – At a time of alarming tuition costs and economic uncertainties, an analysis of the preliminary data released earlier this month by the University of Texas System shows one of the state’s flagship universities could make tuition vastly more affordable by moderately increasing faculty emphasis on teaching.

The Center for College Affordability and Productivity conducted the study titled “Faculty Productivity and Costs at The University of Texas at Austin.” The study assesses faculty productivity at UT-Austin in terms of both research and teaching by delving into the data on faculty compensation, teaching loads and external research grant awards released by the University of Texas system.

“Our analysis shows that there is clearly room for improvement in terms of faculty productivity at UT Austin,” said Dr. Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and a co-author of the study.  “Simply by having faculty teach more students or courses, students and taxpayers will benefit significantly by reduced university costs.” Continue reading

New Study: Professors Work Less – Students Pay More

By: Matt S Dowling

Hard Work - Times of Texas

There has been a lot of debate on how to rein in tuition cost and a new study released by the Center for Affordability and Productivity shows some very interesting data. It analyzes the University of Texas and the workload of professors in conjunction with research funding. This study might redefine on how we look at university funding, so let’s jump right in:

  • 20 percent of UT Austin faculty are teaching 57 percent of student credit hours. They also generate 18 percent of the campus’s research funding. This suggests that these faculty are not jeopardizing their status as researchers by assuming such a high level of teaching responsibility.
  • Conversely, the least productive 20 percent of faculty teach only 2 percent of all student credit hours and generate a disproportionately smaller percentage of external research funding than do other faculty segments.
  • Research grant funds go almost entirely (99.8 percent) to a small minority (20 percent) of the faculty; only 2 percent of the faculty conduct 57 percent of funded research.

So what does all of this mean? Continue reading

What Exactly Are the “Seven Breakthrough Solutions?”

Seven Breakthrough Solutions - Times of Texas
There has been so much controversy surrounding the “seven breakthrough solutions”, we thought we would post them with full downloadable PDF solutions, so you can read and decide for yourself what the fuss is all about. Continue reading

About 30,000 Fewer Students Would Get Texas Grants Under Proposed Budget Compromise

Higher education officials estimate nearly 30,000 fewer students would get Texas Grants under financial aid decisions made Monday by legislative negotiators.

A total of 106,000 students got Texas grants in the current two-year budget period.

The budget proposal would cover 77,300, including all 44,200 of those who are renewals and the rest students getting first-time awards.

The vote on higher education funding came as House and Senate negotiators made final decisions on a state budget plan for the next two years. They plan to formally vote on the overall budget Thursday, sending the compromise to the full House and Senate for consideration.

The financial aid reduction is the best higher education officials could have hoped for since it followed the more generous Senate proposal. Continue reading

College-Level Scam

By MQSullivan

Apparently our state’s colleges and universities don’t have enough to do, so they’re trying to get permission to compete with private-sector telecomm providers. Given how little time so many university employees devote to students, at ever rising tuition rates, one wonders just how expensive this foray will be for taxpayers.

Rising Cost of Public Education  - Times of Texas - Saturday Evening Post

The Texas Senate’s prime apologist for the higher education status quo, State Sen. Judith Zaffirini (R-Laredo) is trying to let universities sell telecomm services already provided by multiple private sector firms. Worse, she would allow the universities to be shielded from competitive bidding when going after contracts with other state agencies.

(Remember, Sen. Zaffirini is the one took an eltist tone last week by implying that those people without advanced degrees have no business commenting on the operations of our universities; we should just shut-up and pay the bills.) Continue reading

Editorial: Pass These Bills on Higher Ed, Water Plan Money, Smoking Ban

Most college students drop a course on occasion. Some drop them often, change majors on a whim or drop out of school entirely.

These students have wasted more than their own time and tuition money. There’s also the lost investment that taxpayers made in subsidizing their education.

Texas has a weak record in keeping undergraduates focused on completing their coursework: It ranks third among states in the amount it spends on students who drop out their first year. Measured over five years, that adds up to $471 million in taxpayers’ money. Continue reading

Expert Analysis Finds Small Number of UT Faculty Teach Most Students

By Eric Dexheimer

Twenty percent of University of Texas at Austin professors instruct most of the school’s students, while the least-productive fifth of the faculty carry only 2 percent of the university’s teaching load, according to an analysis of recently released data by a researcher with ties to an Austin organization promoting controversial changes in how the state runs its higher education system. Meanwhile, 10 percent of the faculty bring in 90 percent of its research grants.

The UT System’s flagship school could save taxpayers millions of dollars by increasing professors’ teaching loads and jettisoning under-performing instructors without jeopardizing the school’s commitment to research, said Richard Vedder, an economics professor and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. Continue reading

Austin’s Long on Ambience, But Short on Tech Talent

Joel Trammell and Larry Warnock, Local Contributors

We have an engineering talent shortage in Austin.

There. We said it.

Let’s be clear. Austin has an abundance of so many things. It is absolutely the best place to live. In fact, many tech leaders will tell you they start their companies here because they like living in Austin. Our city is full of creative, talented people.

UT Austin - Times of Texas

But for the 100 technology CEOs gathered Thursday by the Austin Technology Council at the 2011 CEO Summit, talent was a significant topic. While discussing how the industry can solidify Austin’s place as a top market for technology, local CEOs shared their concerns about the shortage of engineering talent. The overwhelming majority of leaders said they need engineers, computer scientists, programmers and developers to accelerate Austin’s growth in the industry.

On Thursday, 100 tech CEOs spent the day discussing three core issues: two based on recruiting and training engineering talent. We know when it comes to building a leading technology center, markets with the most talent win. In this industry, engineers create intellectual property that create jobs and ultimately, ignite regional economies. Continue reading

Resignation Clouds Timing of UHV Meeting

Texas A_M has yet to announce replacement for chancellor

The date of a high-profile Victoria meeting of two Texas chancellors and state legislators remains unclear.

When Rep. Dan Branch called for the meeting, the Dallas Republican asked the group to meet here in June. As of Saturday, no official date had been set, the Advocate confirmed.

Branch serves as chairman of the Texas House Committee on Higher Education. In late April, he asked the Texas A_M University and University of Houston system chancellors to meet, in part, with Victoria’s state representative and senator. Continue reading

Gov. Perry: Transparency and Accountability Are Critical to Strengthening Texas Higher Education

TEXAS STATE CAPITOL – Gov. Rick Perry (last month) emphasized his commitment to making higher education more affordable, accountable and accessible to Texans. The governor was joined by Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) Commissioner Raymund Paredes, THECB Chairman Fred Heldenfels and House Higher Education Committee Chairman Rep. Dan Branch to announce the release of the inaugural edition of the Texas Public Higher Education Almanac, a publication that spotlights key information about Texas’ higher education institutions in the effort to increase transparency and accountability.

See more @

Job Market Still Tough for Local College Grads

Some seniors have jobs lined up but others are uncertain of their future.

By Alexander Pyles

Three weeks ago, University of Maryland, Baltimore County student Justin Hare was feeling anxious.

The senior mechanical engineering major was still without a job, he said, despite spending the last six months sending out applications and interviewing with four different companies. After five years of schooling and a bachelor’s degree, Hare wasn’t sure what his next move would be.

But then he got the call. And then another. And another.

Hare went from zero offers to three, and has accepted a job with an engineering firm in Washington, D.C., where he’ll start work on June 6. Continue reading

Are High-Poverty Schools Educating the Poor to Remain so?

By Mike Green

Each year, many of the 15 million students enrolled in public secondary schools ask the same question: What’s the point of staying in school if the choices are a minimum-wage job upon graduation or a minimum-wage job now?

These students have astutely recognized a pitiful paradigm for far too many students enrolled in public education institutions.

Education is the key to success,” proclaims the marketing of myriad organizations, companies and institutions. Yet, even high school dropouts are smart enough to read between the lines. If “education” is the key to success, then thousands of public schools are not educating students, as many of them graduate with worthless diplomas and a marketing mantra that dissipates along with the music from Pomp and Circumstance. Continue reading

Analysis: RedState Savages Dewhurst on Higher Education

By William Lutz

RedState, one of the most popular conservative blogs nationwide, has never been a fan of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

RedState Logo

The blog’s editor, Erick Erickson regularly compares Dewhurst to former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, and that’s not a compliment in conservative circles. But the blog took its attack on Dewhurst to a new level Wednesday in a blog post lambasting Dewhurst for setting up a stacked Senate committee to attack Gov. Rick Perry‘s higher education reforms and his appointees to the University of Texas system Board of Regents.

Dewhurst has sometimes come under attack in conservative circles, and I will admit that I have been one of the ones who has come to his defense over the years.

I understand the culture of the Texas Senate encourages compromise, and — from 2003-08 — I thought Dewhurst did a pretty good job getting most of the key planks of the conservative agenda through the Texas Senate largely intact, and some of the items the Senate killed needed to die. But I cannot and I will not defend Dewhurst’s support of liberal university administrators, his attack on the few conservatives left in higher education, and his thinly-veiled shot at the governor’s conservative policies. RedState is right on target here, and I will have a lot more to say on this topic in the coming days. Simply stated, the creation, composition, and charge of the Joint Oversight Committee On Higher Education Governance, Excellence And Transparency is a slap in the face to conservatives who have supported and defended Dewhurst over the years. Continue reading

HBJ 40 Under 40 Winners Honored – Keynote: Jeff Sandefer

By Casey Wooten, Reporter

Jeff Sandefer - Times of Texas

Forty of Houston‘s top young professionals were honored Thursday at the Houston Business Journal 40 Under 40 awards, held at the House of Blues.

Delivering the keynote this year was Jeff Sandefer, a five-time entrepreneur and founder of the Austin-based Acton School of Business.

Sandefer’s speech was largely reflective, stressing that the crowd of young Houston up-and-comers focus on successes beyond the corporate ladder.

“Winning the rat race will not bring you happiness, satisfaction or fulfillment. The winner of the rat race is still a rat,” he said.

To that effect, Sandefer said young professionals should take the “hero’s journey” over the “fool’s errand,” citing three key goals they should strive for in their lives and careers.

Young people should find their calling, should set clear moral guardrails, and must serve a deeper meaning beyond oneself.

After the keynote, master of ceremonies Russ Capper, co-host of the BusinessMakers Radio Show handed out the 2011 40 Under 40 awards.

The event – part of the four-day-long HBJ Celebrate! Enterprise conference and forum – was sponsored by Sterling Bank and co-sponsored by Pannell Kerr Forster of Texas PC, House of Blues – Houston, and Houston Young Professionals Endeavor.

A full list of the winners can be found here.

Tillerson: The U.S. Public Education System for Children Needs Fundamental Change


AUSTIN — As Texas politicians debate whether to reorient universities toward teaching rather than research, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp. gave a warning.

Rex Tillerson - Times of Texas

Rex Tillerson said Thursday that he employs 1,200 people with doctorates, and he relies on university research to push energy technology ahead. If Texas or the U.S. cannot produce, he will turn elsewhere.

“As a private-sector international global company, we’re going to go where we can find the solution. We have to,” he said during a panel discussion at the University of Texas sponsored by the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas.

“I hope we can find a lot of [scientists] here, because this has been the foundation for us. This is still the place we go to for most of our academic talent, the United States,” he said.

Tillerson stepped into a hot debate on a subject dear to the Irving oil company, one of the few energy companies that still employ a group of scientists to do basic research independent of any new product.

As some of the university system regents appointed by Gov. Rick Perry consider implementing sweeping programs to put more emphasis on teaching, the academy, co-founded by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, held a panel discussion Thursday on the importance of research. Most of the panelists, including Tillerson, had supported Hutchison financially when she challenged Perry for governor. Continue reading

Texas Public Agree: We Need to Reform Higher Ed so That it Provides Students with a Better Education at a Lower Cost

By Erick Erickson

Next year’s U.S. Senate primary in Texas offers a wide range of choices. RedState has previously noted our strong preference for either former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz or former railroad commissioner Michael Williams – both of whom have proven themselves as articulate and reliable champions of conservative principles. On the next tier are former Texas secretary of state Roger Williams and current railroad commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, whose commitment to conservative principles may be somewhat shakier but at least are mouthing the right words so far in this campaign.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst - Times of Texas

And then there is Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, or as I like to call him, DewCrist.

Much like the former Governor of Florida turned ambulance chaser, DewCrist’s conduct as lieutenant governor has been consistent: whatever advances his political aspirations at that moment, he’s for. Obviously, it worked well for him during his first two terms. But in the first few months of his third term – the one in which his path toward higher office has finally cleared – his continuing to play both sides of the fence is costing Texas conservatives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make historic policy gains. Continue reading

State Senator Zaffirini: Rick Perry Doesn’t Have a Graduate Degree, (But) I Have a PhD, so I Understand

By Bryan Preston

Democrats go full elitist, defend higher ed bubble and its skyrocketing costs (Updated)

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini - Times of Texas

Though this story comes out of Texas, it’s not really about Texas. It’s about the liberal elitists and their attitude toward those who question them. In this specific case, Democrat state Sen. Judith Zaffirini would have you know that the status quo in higher education is just fine, thankyouverymuch, and if you don’t agree, you’re just not as smart as she is. The problem is you, not her, as she is more than happy to inform you.

QUESTION: Perry graduated from A_M, which initially embraced the “reforms” (although A_M Systems Chancellor Mike McKinney faced a firestorm and resigned last week). Does Perry have something against UT?

ZAFFIRINI: Rick Perry doesn’t understand higher education. He doesn’t have a graduate degree, and he graduated a long time ago with a major in something like agriculture. I have a PhD, so I understand the value of research and teaching. He just doesn’t understand it. In the legislature, we’re used to dealing with regents who love their universities, who bleed orange or red or whatever their colors. These new regents appointed by Perry don’t seem to have any school spirit. They seem suspicious and cynical. They haven’t taken time to understand what the status quo is; they just want to change it. Continue reading

The Next Big Thing – Startups Spring to Life at UT

By Tom Gerrow

Long hours, low pay and only a small chance of success—welcome to the world of startups. But the potential to make it big, to grow something from scratch, often proves irresistible.

finger pointing on blackboardSeasoned entrepreneurs know the siren’s song of success and have war stories about failed ventures. They know a good idea and enthusiasm aren’t enough. Yet even with a crippled economy, the university has renewed its entrepreneurial spirit, creating an extensive support system that gives aspiring entrepreneurs who do want to take the risk their best chance at success.

Courses at McCombs, the Cockrell School of Engineering, the School of Law and other academic departments cover different aspects of entrepreneurship and how to take technologies to market. Programs like 3-Day Startup, Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition (formerly, Moot Corp) and Idea2Product help new ventures take their first steps. And others push startups further toward creating viable businesses, including Texas Venture Labs and the Austin Technology Incubator.

To see this in action we talked to the founders of three companies—each in different stages of development, but all with university roots—to find out how they used the available resources to help launch their new ventures. Continue reading

Wentworth Says he’s Not in Running for A_M Chancellor

Texas senator will ‘wait and see if the call comes’

By Mary Tuma

State Sen. Jeff Wentworth - Times of Texas

Although his name has arisen as a possible successor to retiring Texas A_M University System Chancellor Mike McKinney, state Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) doesn’t appear to be in the running, at least not yet.

The Republican lawmaker says he has not received a call from A_M yet. When asked if he would accept such a position, Wentworth replied he would have to just “wait and see if the call comes.” Past opportunities, said the Republican lawmaker, have come at the behest of university system leaders. Continue reading

Why Rick Perry Should Run for President

Fresh from delivering a major address to the RNC, Texas Gov. Rick Perry as GOP presidential candidate is going viral even while the candidate himself insists that he is not running. On that, I believe him. I do not think he is running. But I also believe he should, and may be persuaded to, reconsider. Here are a few of the reasons the Texas governor would make a formidable candidate for the presidency. Continue reading

Zaffirini Attacks UT Regent Alex Cranberg for “Facilitating Informed Decision-Making

Perry Performance Fuels GOP Interest in White House Run

By Ralph Z. Hallow The Washington Times

DALLAS — He’s not on the ballot for 2012, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry strongly impressed a gathering of top Republican officials here Tuesday, with many high-ranking GOP officials saying the governor would be their top choice if he entered the presidential race.

“I would love to see a movement to draft Rick for the nomination if that’s the only way we can get him to run,” said Republican National Committee general counsel Bill Crocker after Mr. Perry delivered a luncheon address that had several hundred party officials attentive throughout.

“The comments I got after his speech made it clear I am not alone,” Mr. Crocker said at the meeting of GOP state chairmen and other RNC members.

Interviews with more than two dozen people after Mr. Perry spoke produced a highly unusual degree of consensus about the third-term governor’s potential prospects as a candidate. Continue reading

Federal Subsidies for Higher Ed – Drive up Costs, Stifle Competition and Make Students and Universities Less Price-Sensitive.

AUSTIN — Want to lower the cost of college? End all federal subsidies for higher education.

That was the provocative solution proffered at a panel discussion Friday put on by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative Austin think tank whose “Seven Breakthrough Solutions” for higher education have created a firestorm of controversy within the Texas A_M University and University of Texas Systems.

Neal McCluskey, a free-market advocate with the Cato Institute, said federal student aid such as Pell grants and research grants drive up costs, stifle competition and make students and universities less price-sensitive.

“If you are using your own money, you demand a good product,” McCluskey said. “You professors need to be teaching me something, not doing research or sitting in your office not doing office hours.” Continue reading