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March 22, 2004     (512) 463-0300

Higher Education Accountability Examined at Capitol

AUSTIN - While the Legislature's efforts to reform public school funding have been in the headlines this spring, the state universities have also been examined very closely. Accountability was the word at this morning's hearing at the Texas Capitol, as the Joint Interim Committee on Higher Education quizzed university representatives about how effective their programs were and what the state was getting for the millions that go to higher education each year. Co-chair Florence Shapiro said this was especially important in the wake of university tuition deregulation.

Texas Tech University Board of Regents Chairman Bob Black led off the testimony, saying that the University had a responsibility to ensure that state funds get to the classroom first, then to other parts of the University. He named growth, diversity, a focus on people, partnerships with other universities and accountability as primary goals for Texas Tech.

University of Houston System Assistant Vice Chancellor Ed Hugetz followed, telling the committee that as far back as the fall of 1997 UH had worked with performance indicators, ways the university could judge how effective it was in educating students.

Don Brown, Commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and Lee Jackson, Chancellor of the University of North Texas System, said that it is the Legislature's job to decide exactly what the schools should be held accountable for, so they can determine whether the performance of the universities achieves the desired results. Brown said that Texas institutions need to be compared to their peers across the country. Jackson was concerned that if an institution didn't meet the goals set by the Legislature, and then its funding might be cut, making it even more difficult for the institution to meet those goals.

Mark Yudoff, University of Texas System Chancellor, spoke about UT's commitment to accountability. He said his institution had studied many different accountability systems and that "it's really many different things to many different people." UT has a separate office dedicated for accountability that is responsible for assembling statistics across the many varied institutions. Dr. Geri Malandra, Associate Vice Chancellor for Accountability at UT, told the members that the institution is gathering a lot of data so accurate reports can be given to the Legislature.

The Joint Interim Committee on Higher Education is co-chaired by Senator Florence Shapiro and Representative Geanie Morrison. Members include Senators Kip Averitt, Robert Duncan, Kyle Janek, Royce West and Judith Zaffirini, as well as Representatives Fred Brown, Tony Goolsby, Roberto Gutierrez, Lois Kolkhorst, and Sylvester Turner. Public members include Martin Basaldua, Jerry Farrington, Jodie Jiles and Robert Shepard. The Committee's next meetings are scheduled for April 20 when it will be examining community colleges. The Committee recessed subject to call of the chair.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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