Responding to calls for reform in higher education, the chancellor of the University of Texas today unveiled a plan that takes a good first step at improving affordability and transparency. Of course, more is needed to make sure taxpayers, parents and students get the maximum return on their college dollar.

Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, MD, presented a plan to the UT Board of Regents that recognizes the need for improved efficiency in higher education.

For example, Dr. Cigarroa’s proposal would expand online classroom opportunities, driving down costs. The UT Regents unanimously adopted the plan, that includes the creation of new transparency measures.

Regent Brenda Pejovich said the plan is “a significant first step in what will be a lengthy but rewarding process.”

Some outside groups have spent the summer opposing reforms, and even appropriate regent oversight — such as the mis-named “Coalition for Excellence,” organized by Kenneth Jastrow, former CEO of Temple-Inland and currently being sued for his role in the failure of Guaranty Bank. It was a bank failure that cost the taxpayers “more than a billion dollars.” (That bank failure was called “one of the largest bank failures of the recent financial crisis.”)

According to the Dallas Morning News, Jastrow’s higher-ed group — led by former George W. Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes — was started to oppose conservative reform efforts championed by Gov. Rick Perry, students and taxpayers.

Jastrow was quoted by the Austin American Statesman after the vote as saying that now it is time for the regents “to get out of the way.”

That may be good advice for ruining a financial institution, but it’s bad advice for transparently managing a public institution.

Maybe Mr. Jastrow and his colleagues’ billion-dollar mistakes at Guaranty will work out for them and their shareholders, but taxpayers in Texas expect our elected and appointed officials to provide a fair bit better oversight and accountability.

Texans want our publicly financed institutions to provide a high quality education that is transparent, affordable and accessible.

Clearly, the governor, regents and UT’s chancellor understand that and are taking steps in the right direction.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, and a dog. Check out his podcast, Reflections on Life and Liberty.

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