The Texas higher education systems is facing attacks from businessmen, state Republicans, and presidential hopeful Rick Perry, who argue that the system is overpriced and wasteful and in need of drastic reform. These fears are unfounded; the University of Texas system is actually quite efficient, according to a new report.
One might have cause to distrust that report, however, as it was issued by the University of Texas. According to an article by Reeve Hamilton in the Texas Tribune:
[Marc] Musick gathered publicly available data on 120 public institutions of higher education for the sake of comparison with UT. Then he set about to answer a basic question: How much are taxpayers getting for their buck? “We basically calculate how much we get in revenue and, on the basis of how good our graduation rates are and how many faculty we employ, how good are we compared to other schools,” he says.
According to Musick, of the universities he looked at, UT is the second most efficient university in the country. (The top spot is claimed by the University of Florida.) Texas A&M University is close on UT’s heels in fourth. Texas Tech University, at 24th, also makes a strong showing.
Musick finds that in the area of efficiency, the University of Texas “excels.” He also wants to make it very clear that he’s totally unbiased. According to the article, “Musick says he has no interest in making UT look better in his study. ‘At the end of the day,’ he says, ‘I’m a sociologist. I’m a scholar. The main thing I’m interested in is finding the truth.’
Well perhaps, but at the end of the day he’s actually an academic administrator. He’s the Associate Dean for Student Affairs in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas, Austin. It’s not to say that this report is misleading or dishonest, but it determining efficiency depends on how one defines efficiency. Musick based efficiency on the school’s graduation rate relative to the amount the school receives from the state and from student tuition.
Notably excluded from these measures is any consideration of the actual learning or capability of its graduates or the research produced by the institution. Merely graduating students doesn’t take any money at all; it’s educating them that costs money.
Read the efficiency report here.