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State University Report Blasts Higher Ed ‘Solutions’

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AUSTIN (AP) – Urging against treating Texas college students like customers “shopping on iTunes or visiting Banana Republic,” a top University of Texas at Austin administrator Wednesday blasted proposed higher education reforms broadly endorsed by Governor Rick Perry but opposed by faculty statewide.

The report by Robert Diehl, dean of UT’s College of Liberal Arts, is the strongest defense yet by the state’s largest university against the so-called “Seven breakthrough Solutions.” The proposals, created by the right-leaning Texas Public Policy Foundation, have stirred ongoing unrest on Texas campuses since last year.

Among the proposals are greater scrutiny of faculty productivity and rewarding professors based on student feedback. The think tank also questions the use of taxpayer money to fund esoteric research that doesn’t generate money.

Diehl’s report, posted online by the university, urges state leaders against adopting “market-driven” models that operate on the belief that universities should operate like businesses.

“If implemented, they will likely lead to structural changes in higher education that will leave Texas lagging behind other states and drive top students and faculty away,” the report reads.

The proposals have not been formally implemented or even proposed on any Texas campuses. Faculty members at Texas A&M University, in particular, charge that school leaders are quietly trying to implement the measures behind the scenes, which the university’s regents have denied.

Perry, a Republican, endorsed the “seven solutions” at a meeting of state university leaders in 2008. The Texas A&M University graduate, has called for more accountability on campuses and challenged universities to offer $10,000 bachelor’s degree programs in the face of soaring tuition costs.

Perry spokesman Mark Miner, responding to the report, said in a statement that the status quo is not keeping up with the state’s needs. Fewer than three in 10 students in Texas graduate from public universities within four years.

“We all have an obligation to meet the needs of Texas students, employers, taxpayers and our fast-growing economy,” Miner said. “Resisting reform and accountability is an unsustainable recipe for mediocrity and stagnation. Texas deserves better.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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