Perry Touts Education Record in Face of Impending Cuts, Controversy

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This morning Governor Rick Perry joined members of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to announce the release of the inaugural edition of the Texas Public Higher Education Almanac.

Meant to promote transparency, accountability and the value of higher education to Texas policymakers and taxpayers, Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Parades said the Almanac offers “a snapshot that will not only allow us to better identify our successes, but also assess areas for improvement.” Inside its large-format glossy pages the almanac spotlights data relating to postsecondary costs, access and completion.

In his remarks Governor Perry highlighted the vast growth of enrollment and degrees awarded in Texas since 2000, both having increased nearly 50 percent.

The almanac comes at a time of extreme turbulence for Texas’ system of higher education. The Legislature will almost certainly force huge cuts on colleges and universities as well as student financial aid programs, driving up tuition costs and jeopardizing progress toward creating new top-notch universities. At the same time, Perry and his ideological allies are trying to impose controversial “reforms” on the University of Texas.

Perhaps in response to a backlash over his appointment of Rick O’Donnell – an analyst for a conservative Austin think tank who has publicly stated that academic research is not valuable and conflicts with good teaching – as a special advisor to the UT Board of Regents, Perry made sure to highlight UT Austin’s history of groundbreaking research.

Perry also flogged his $10,000 degree idea but did not offer any more details on how to make it happen.

When faced with questions about budget cuts and using the Rainy Day Fund, Perry pointed to the November elections as a mandate to shrink government and implement cuts.

“To be honest, I’m not spending a lot of time looking for new forms of revenue,” said Perry. “I think we need to look at expenditures first, new forms of revenue screams out to me ‘we’re going to raise taxes.’”

When asked about specific means of new revenue such as the widely discussed high-cost natural gas tax exemption, which is costing the state up to $1.2 billion a year of lost revenue, Perry held fast to his guns. “I don’t think Texas is looking for cute ways to address the reality of tough times.”

One imagines that future higher education almanacs will likely detail the losses inflicted by the governor’s decisions – and they won’t be cute.