Higher Ed Coming Out of Controversial Time

Jan 15, 2014 by

by Reeve Hamilton – In 2012, Hunter Rawlings, the president of the Association of American Universities, warned that Texas was “ground zero” for a controversial push to make higher education more utilitarian. On Monday, during an interview in Austin, he sounded tentatively more hopeful.

Although budgetary constraints and political attitudes have recently focused significant pressure and attention on public universities — and the University of Texas at Austin, in particular — Rawlings said, “It’s been happening across the country, but I’d say we’re beginning to come out of the worst of that.”

But while there is a sense that some political turmoil may be subsiding nationally and in Texas, difficulties remain in the form of strained research budgets, demand for more effective approaches to teaching key subjects and a wave of public doubt about the value of a degree. Despite these, Rawlings insisted that there were reasons to have faith in the American higher education system.

In Austin for a meeting of the AAU’s council on federal relations, the president of the group — the country’s most elite organization of public and private research universities — was sitting in the office its new chairman, UT-Austin President Bill Powers, who has played a central role in the debate over the future course of higher education.

Powers has found himself at odds with Gov. Rick Perry and some of his appointees to the University of Texas System Board of Regents in recent years. The tension reached such a level that the board nearly — but ultimately declined to — put Powers’ employment to a vote in December.

via University Leaders: Higher Ed Coming Out of Controversial Time | The Texas Tribune.

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