LUBBOCK - The Special Commission on 21st Century Colleges and Universities held a public hearing at Texas Tech University's International Cultural Center on Monday, September 18, 2000. Lt. Governor Rick Perry appointed the 15 member commission to study the workforce needs and demographic changes facing Texas. The commission is focusing on such issues as accessability and affordability of a college degree and the role of advanced technology in preparing students for the future.
After approval of the minutes from the August 21, 2000 hearing in Austin, the hearing began with welcoming remarks from Lubbock Senator Robert L. Duncan. Texas Tech University Chancellor John T. Montford addressed the committee, welcoming the commission to Lubbock. Montford told the committee of the future plans of Texas Tech University reaching out to all the areas of West Texas and the Panhandle region. Montford testified on the tools provided by the Legislature that have benefitted the university, including the excellence fund to hire new staff and the modest annual tuition increases that assist in keeping up with inflation. David Schmidly, President of Texas Tech, also welcomed the committee to the campus. Among the goals Schmidly has set out for the university are improved access and diversity, improving communications technology, and community engagement.
The commission members held a spirited discussion of issues identified during the interim study. Among the issues discussed were:
-develop an accessible and seamless pipeline of educational excellence,
-develop a broad based marketing campaign to encourage more participation in higher education,
-increase access to institutions of higher learning,
-state increases in the availability of financial assistance,
-development of a long term plan to deregulate the higher education market,
-more teachers and better pay,
-using technology for innovative ideas such as distance learning or possibly a state virtual university,
-higher education institutions to be a pro-active partner with the state in economic development by developing programs that provide highly skilled workers, and
-achieve national excellence to ensure competitiveness.
The hearing continued with invited testimony from Dr. Max D. Summers, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics and of Genetics and Biology; Director of the Center for Advanced Insect Molecular Sciences at Texas A&M University. Dr. Summers presented the faculty perspective of the needs for research funding, and the related challenges and goals. Using his own experience leading a research group, Summers' presentation gave an overview of the mechanics of a research organization. He testified about the effects on both undergraduate and graduate students, the skills they develop, and the experience they gain enabling them to compete in the free market place. His presentation included examples of how the research benefitted the public.
Members of the commission include James Adams of San Antonio serving as chair, Kirbyjon H. Caldwell of Houston, James Hooten of Houston, Betsy Goebel Jones of Lubbock, Margarita Diaz Kintz 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, Texas Railroad Commissioner Tony Garza, and Senators Carlos Truan of Corpus Christi, Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant, Teel Bivins of Amarillo, Royce West of Dallas, and ex-officio member Pam Willeford of Austin.
The Special Commission on 21st Century Colleges and Universities stands adjourned subject to the call of the chair. The commission will compile a report of findings and recommendations for use in developing legislation to be considered by the 77th Legislature which convenes in January of 2001.