uted by faculty peer groups either through competition at the campus level, or statewide. The proposal also captures half of the so-called overhead expenses now skimmed by the state and returns the money for research facilities and equipment. Most importantly, the Hackerman report is being written with the understanding that the most important function of research is to help people educate themselves. The McCormick report on student financial aid spells out an ambitious conception. Produced by Joe McCormick, executive director of the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation, the report calls for a reversal of recent trends toward loans. Instead, McCormick is asking for more outright scholarships. He also wants to change the routing of financial aid money so that the dollars follow the students who actually need them. Much financial aid money is now given to institutions. As a result, some institutions report balances of unused financial aid money while other colleges don’t have enough to go around. McCormick says the money should go to the needy students who may then select the college they want to attend. The Hardesty report, prepared for the Coordinating Board under the direction of the president of Southwest Texas State University, calls for a statewide program of remediation in the basic skills. The report, which is being adopted in principle by the select committee, recommends the testing of all college freshmen. Those found lacking in the basic skills of reading, writing, or arithmetic will be directed into remedial programs. All students must qualify in the basic skills before they can enroll for junior-level courses. Complementing the main themes of the Hardesty report are other remedial programs suggested by the Coordinating Board and by select committee member Rep. Wilhelmina Delco of Austin. These proposals recommend extra effort and expense on behalf of minority students. Some reforms will be pocketbook cheap, but academically risky. A consensus is developing among select committee members that the first two years of college should be somewhat standardized across the state. McCormick, using the argument that students are consumers, wants a statewide core curriculum that would allow the absolute transferrability of freshman and sophomore coursework. Other suggestions call for campus wide core curricula with a more uniform statewide method of course descriptions. Also under the heading of cheap and risky is the suggestion by Amarillo attorney Wales Madden to grant the Coordinating Board authority to set and enforce enrollment quotas. The rationale of Madden’s proposal distributes students to existing buildings rather than adjusting buildings to the needs of students. Of course, it’s cheaper to move students than build buildings; otherwise, the proposal seems frought with questions. NEXT COME the schemes which are taking shape for political reasons but are hiding under the guise of reform or austerity. Chief suspects are the various proposals to alter the governance pattern of higher education. Members of the select committee are fond of telling us that there are now 37 boards of regents vying for political and economic favor. For some reason it has come to be a foregone conclusion that Texas is not big enough for 37 separate boards. Therefore, the argument speedily concludes, we have to reduce the number. Nobody, however, is ever very clear as to why all these boards should be such a pain in the neck, although two of the more likely explanations seem to have very little to do with quality education. Given times of tight budgets, one explanation points out how it would be politically simpler if there were fewer institutional lobbyists roaming the halls of the capitol. Let’s get some of these boards together under one roof and let several campuses fight priorities among themselves. Then the work of legislators would be much easier. Well then, one might answer, given times of tight budgets, a friend of education might easily conclude that the more lobbyists the better. Schemes of consolidation sound like the coward’s route to easier budget cutting. The next explanation is more transparent. Some select committee members note that the governor would be better off making fewer appointments. This gives the governor fewer headaches and makes the positions more competitive. Competition in this context translates more or less directly into the relative size of one’s campaign contribution. Isn’t this reasoning, ah, perfectly clear? A management study being conducted by consultants Coopers and Lybrand is likely to show that administrative costs are indeed eating an unhealthy portion of the state’s higher education budget. And this finding will be the rationale for more efficient administrative structures, hence fewer governing boards. It’s great how the logic of this process always ignores the fact that governing boards entail relatively small administra tive costs and that a truly conservative approach to tight management will have to take place on individual campuses anyway. Imagine cutting administrative costs by demanding the formation of new systems! At any rate, reorganization is a fetish with the select committee, and there are two dominant schemes under discussion. Alumni of Texas A&M and the University of Texas, however, can skip the next two paragraphs. Nobody is going to touch their sacred turf. First, the state could be gerrymandered into educational regions with a board over each region. Houston developer and energy magnate George Mitchell favors a regional approach for Houston. Lubbock attorney Bill Parsley favors a West Texas region. Mitchell has gone so far as to call for the abolition of Prairie View A&M, TSU, and the downtown campus of the University of Houston. These “segregated” schools, says Mitchell, should be transformed into campuses of a new “integrated” system. Mitchell points quite candidly to the likely consequences of regionalization. Or the committee could adopt a version of “the . California system” wherein big universities get together under one board, junior colleges get “coordinated” under another board, and all the rest of the state’s colleges get grouped into two or three intermediate tiers, each tier with its own board. This is the scheme favored by several select committee members, including East Texas industrialist Arthur Temple and high tech wizard Bobby Inman. This system sorts the future of Texas institutions according to their present status, and thus raises some problems regarding flexibility and change. There was a time, for example, when such a scheme would have relegated Texas A&M to the permanent status of cow college and military fraternity. In passing, one can’t help wondering why the select committee has not taken seriously the successful patterns of the A&M and UT systems. Instead of trying to extend the bizarre logic of these political ganglia to a truly Texan model for development, the committee seems bent on some formal neatness imported from one of the coasts. And the great lesson of Texas education remains virtually ignored: give the universities a reliable source of income, and they will return the investment with amazing results. The achievements of A&M and UT can be attributed most clearly to the fact that legislators such as the three horsemen of Texas present have been forbidden from interfering with a big THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21
You May Also Like
The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.