A Texas senator is staunchly defending the higher education establishment by opposing efforts to make college more affordable and accessible. That’s bad news for working families and students struggling to pay tuition.

According to news reports, State Sen. Judith Zafirini (D-Laredo) told the chairman of the UT Board of Regents that she opposed plans to “see tuition drop by approximately 50 percent” while increasing enrollment. She is chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee.

From the Texas Tribune:

“At a time when regents should be working with legislators to minimize dramatic funding cuts,” Zaffirini says, [UT Regent] “Chair Powell instead apparently is proposing changes that are detrimental to the pursuit of excellence.”

Detrimental to the ivory-tower-dwellers, perhaps, but not parents and students struggling to afford college. Our universities are filled with purveyors of faux excellence rather than pursuers of sound education.

This explains what will undoubtedly be a rather sanitized and meaningless release of data from the University of Texas’ own audit of their books. As AgendaWise noted this week, the university is allegedly planning to release some data after intense questioning from regents and the public.

Don’t expect the Ivory Fortress to let many useful facts get out. For example, we know lots of highly paid profs sit on the payroll, but very few actually stoop to teaching classes. Instructing undergraduates is left to assistants. How much does that cost in dollars and results?

I suspect we won’t find out unless we dig deeper than the university gate-keepers will allow. But that is the kind of cost-inflation that needs to be addressed… but won’t be for as long as the imposters hold the keys to the temple.

Affordability and access isn’t a problem for country club Democrats and Republicans alike. Zafirini’s House counter-part, State Rep. Dan Branch (R-Highland Park), says that while he thinks it might be nice to be “looking for ways to expand access and keep tuition affordable” he is much more interested in preserving the academic elite’s status quo definitions for “quality and excellence.”

In higher-ed speak, “quality and excellence” is code for spending without restraint or accountability. Right now, those defining “excellence” and “quality” in our state’s institutions of higher education are those who benefit from the high-cost / low-access system.

Transparency in higher education is long over-due.

College education must be made more affordable and accessible, while ensuring the institutions are focused practically on educating the students. Families are taking too big a hit in the pocketbook thanks to inefficiencies in our colleges and universities.

Here’s how David Guenthner at Texas Public Policy Foundation put it:

“Tuition costs and student debt loads are soaring at unsustainable rates. The cost bubble in higher education is about to burst and universities that do not reinvent themselves – and quickly – will be made irrelevant. Chairman Powell and his fellow regents deserve the gratitude of students and parents for making college affordability one of their top priorities.”

Texas families deserve full transparency and real reform in higher education. We cannot afford anything less.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

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


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