The Texas Observer JAN. 8, 1965 A Journal of Free Voices A Window to The South 25c HIGHER EDUCATION IN TEXAS The Report–I: Are Money and Planning Enough? Robert L. Montgomery, Jr. Austin On August 31, 1964, the Report of the Governor’s Committee on Education beyond the High School was released. Entitled “Education: Texas’ Resource for Tomorrow,” it contains 64 pages of text, pictures, and illustrative charts and graphs \(there are twenty “figure references” and dark profiles of a boy and girl holding hands in a thicket and gazing at each other as the sun bursts through the branches above them. \(You are allowed your own conclusions about where they are conclusions and recommendations of a committee of seventeen laymen \(attorneys, all but one of the latter administrators. One official of the state teachers’ association was a member of the committee, but there was no professor on it. The makeup of the committee was, in effect, heavily representative of business and industry. The first public announcement of the release of the report and of some of its more newsworthy proposals was at once greeted by skeptical, if not hostile, comment from a handful of legislators. Most who were quoted said that they had not yet seen the report, but it was clear that its two major recommendationsa sharp increase in money to be spent for higher education during the next few years and the creation of a statewide Coordinating Board to oversee all state-supported junior colleges, colleges, and universitieswere certain to result in discussion of some warmth. What the legislature will do about it is at the moment anybody’s guess. We may hope that the governor will work hard for at least some reforms, for he has now run for office twice on a platform of improving higher education in Texas and it was he The writer, Dr. Robert L. Montgomery, Jr., is an associate professor of English at the University of Texas. who created the committee as the first step in redeeming his campaign promises. Moreover, the need for change and improvement is urgent. It is no secret that most Texas educators who have thought about it have been troubled for years by the widespread and endemic confusion, lack of planning, and inadequate financing in the state’s system of higher education. As the report points out, .the junior colleges are supervised by a different agency \(the and universities \(the Commission on Highfor the expansion of the system. There is frequent and wasteful duplication of degree programs on the graduate level. There is futile and destructive competition among colleges for -their shares of appropriated money. The state colleges, most of which lack the staff, libraries, and laboratories for more than nominal graduate instruction, seem unable to resist the urge to call themselves universities. All of them lack sufficient funds to recruit superior facilities. Natural growth is often a good thing, but so far the natural growth of higher education in Texas has occurred haphazardly and often without reference to the real needs of the student population or of the society they are being educated to enter. With the possible exceptions of Rice, the University of Dallas, and Austin College at Sherman, private higher education in the state is patently inferior. The one agency which might have been counted on to bring sense to this chaos, the Commission on Higher Education, has proven weak. This, as the report says, is partly because of statutory limitations on its authority, but, as a consequence of flaccid and unenlightened leadership, the commission has been far more active in reflecting the deficiencies of the whole system than in doing anything to remedy them. It has been entirely too responsive to political pressures from the boondocks, granting, against the recommendations of its own staff, such absurdities as a Ph.D. program in English at East Texas State, an institution without the faculty or research facilities to venture on such an enterprise. IF CONFUSION, lack of planning, and widespread institutional weakness have motivated this report, so has patriotism. Texans’ pride is often misaimed and misplaced, but in this instance it may be useful. In all sorts of areas generally conceded to influence the quality of higher education, the performance of Texas is fitful and unimpressive beside that of states Texans are inclined to look down on. Figure 12 in the report shows that between 1940 and 1960, 36 of 48 states improved more than Texas in the number of school years their citizens completed. \(Two During that period Texas moved below the national median, and eight states moved ahead of it. In a number of other areas, per capita investment in higher education other states or against national averages and finds us wanting. Such comparative statistics may be useful in touching the pride of some members of the legislature, but one should be wary of too devout a reliance upon them. For example, in Figure 12 Utah, Alaska, and California rank one, two, and three in median of school years completed, but I would suspect that in California, as well as in Alaska, immigration has as much to do with increasing the amount of formal education of their populations as any planned educational program. The last and most telling motive for the report of the governor’s committee is something we all know : Texas is experiencing rapid industrial growth and with it a rather too quick changeover from an agricultural to a manufacturing, urbanized economy. Most immediately this trans r.
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