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August 21, 2000     (512) 463-0300

University of Texas at Austin Hosts the Special Commission on 21st Century Colleges and Universities

Austin - The Special Commission on 21st Century Colleges and Universities was called to order Monday, August 21, 2000 at the University of Texas at Austin by Chairman Jim Adams of San Antonio. Members of the Commission include Kirbyjon H. Caldwell and James Hooton both of Houston; Betsy Goebel Jones of Lubbock; Margarita Diaz Kintz and Pam Willeford (ex-officio member) both of Austin; Nancy Cain Marcus of Dallas; Jeff Sandefer of Austin; Elaine Mendoza of San Antonio; Karen L. Shewbart of Lake Jackson; Danny Vickers of El Paso; Tony Garza, Railroad Commissioner of Austin; and Senators Carlos F. Truan of Corpus Christi, Bill Ratliff of Mt. Pleasant, Teel Bivins of Amarillo, and Royce West of Dallas.

The commission was welcomed to Austin and heard opening remarks by Larry Faulkner, President of the University of Texas at Austin. Faulkner spoke of how new ideas can improve performance in higher education not only at his school, but also others throughout Texas.

Following the President, the members had a general discussion of issues to develop recommendations for their report. The four main topics of interest in regards to higher education were access, excellence, technology, and economic development.

The members agreed that access to higher education is the foundation to lead Texas into the 21st Century. The members spoke on whether factors such as academic, economic, or geographic play a role in limiting access. Access can be achieved in many ways through early childhood development and learning centers.

The commission discussed methods to define and ensure excellence in post-secondary education in Texas. An accounting system was proposed to rate the level of excellence in the states' institutions through enhancing salaries for teachers who produce, better benefits for faculty, funding, and whether or not teaching versus research is defining excellence. Commission members also discussed current technology and the age of interactive television and Internet courses. The members spoke on how to best develop and deploy technology that is most cost and academically effective and whether this technology would affect expansion of "bricks and mortar". Finally, the plan of economic development was brought up for discussion. This plan would include addressing the workforce needs, curriculum and program offerings, and what would be the appropriate relationship for higher education with businesses and community in promoting economic development.

All these factors will go into a report with a tentative date of release in mid December. This report is called- A COMPELLING CASE FOR CHANGE, A Long Term Plan for Texas' Children and Higher Education.

Ex-officio member Pam Willeford was asked to give a mission statement of the commission. She stated that "Every Texan should have the opportunity, means, and preparation to pursue post secondary opportunities through a degree, certificate, or other successful outcomes as determined by the student with the goal that they would participate fully in the economic prosperity of our state and help further that economic prosperity".

The commissions' next meeting will be held on September 18th in Lubbock.

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