How to Improve Texas Colleges

A business group in Texas is urging the state to make improvements to colleges. Higher graduation rates and cheaper costs are the solution, the group maintains. Texas is going to need more effective colleges if it wants to be the center of business and technological innovation.

According to an article by Ralph Haurwitz in the Austin American-Statesman:

More than two dozen business executives in Texas have signed on as members of a newly formed group dedicated to improving the quality and reducing the cost of the state’s public universities.

The nonprofit advocacy group, Texas Business for Higher Education, includes some major campaign contributors to Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

“This is a group that thinks we need to do everything we can to improve both teaching and research, improve access and lower costs,” Justin Keener, a spokesman for the group, said Wednesday.

Texas Business for Higher Education’s goals include trimming costs to improve efficiency in order to reduce tuition. The nonprofit group finds it troublesome that U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Texas 45th among American universities.

“What if our football team was ranked 45th?” Kenner pointed out. “There would be some serious discussion about how to improve.”

The tactics and policy goals of the new group are still uncertain and it has potential to make interesting changes.

All this focus on efficiency, however, ignores the fact that state support for colleges in Texas, like everywhere else, is in decline. That’s what makes college tuition more expensive to students. One way to combat that problem might be to provide more state support for higher education. This might well be accomplished by, say, increasing corporate taxes. The businesses would benefit in the long run, right? After all, the University of Texas could help make Austin the next Silicon Valley, according to the governor.

Kenner’s right to point out that Texans would be very concerned if the football team ranked 45th. If the football team were ranked 45th, however, surely no one would suggest that the solution would have much to do with “cutting costs to improve efficiency.”

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer