in Houston, Texas
26 UT System administrators, campus presidents may be in line for corporate-style incentive pay
Wednesday, Aug 22, 2012, 03:14PM CST
By Curt Olson
clocktower

One year after approving a strategy to improve accountability and productivity in the University of Texas System, regents could authorize a corporate-style incentive pay plan for 26 UT System administrators and campus presidents.

After all, if higher education must operate like a business, pay them accordingly, right?

UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa recommends that regents approve an incentive pay plan for the 15 campus presidents and 11 UT System administrators, giving them higher pay based on surpassing goals tied to saving money, research dollars, fundraising and graduation rates, the Austin American-Statesman reports. The plan is designed to gradually increase the percentage of their pay derived from performance goals. There’s no cap on that percentage.

While the UT System wouldn’t be the first university system in the nation to create such a pay plan, the proposal comes after reports this spring that Texas already has some of the highest-paid higher education leaders in the nation.

For the salary and total compensation of all higher ed administrators in Texas, read this report from the Legislative Budget Board.

Critics of higher education have targeted administrative bloat, the lack of productivity of tenured faculty, the record debt of about $1 trillion for college graduates nationally, and poor results in college student learning.

Would the bonus system do anything to address those criticisms? By one testing measure, UT Austin students do no better than their peers at other institutions by demonstrating no marked improvement between freshman and senior years, the Washington Post reported. Perhaps the 15 UT System campus presidents should have some measure of accountability for these results, as well as when learning outcomes improve.

Americans grew accustomed to well-paid corporate executives when times were good. If they make the company profitable, give them incentive pay.

However, Americans have witnessed some real head scratchers involving performance pay when companies received bailouts. One of the more famous ones in recent years was the controversy over bonuses paid to American International Group executives after the company crashed and received a taxpayer bailout.

So it might be worthwhile to put safeguards in this UT executive performance-pay plan if events don’t go as planned.

***
Contact Curt Olson at curt@texaswatchdog.org or 512-557-3800. Follow him on Twitter @olson_curt.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitterand Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feed in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, NewsVine and tumblr.

Photo of UT's Main Building by flickr user ThisIsNotApril, used via a Creative Commons license.

UT-Austin students get 2-year reprieve from tuition hikes, Texas A&M students not so fortunate
Friday, May 04, 2012, 04:32PM CST
By Mike Cronin
horsefeathers

The University of Texas System board has frozen tuition for in-state undergraduates at the Austin campus for two years, while the Texas A&M University System regents approved tuition hikes this afternoon at many of the state’s land-grant universities, according to the Austin American-Statesman and KETK, the NBC affiliate in 
Tyler.

The UT Board of Regents chose to distribute $12 million from the system’s multibillion-dollar endowment to pay for “student success” initiatives at the Austin campus, the Statesman’s Ralph K.M. Haurwitz writes.

UT’s move pleases advocates for keeping college-tuition costs down but came over UT-Austin President Bill Powers’ objections. Gov. Rick Perry declared last year that Texas universities should aim to provide a four-year bachelor’s degree at no more than $10,000.

“Today, the University of Texas System regents have done right by the students at UT-Austin and their parents,” said the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Thomas Lindsay in a statement. “Tuition and student loan debt at Texas universities have reached record highs, and higher education costs have far outpaced inflation and every other sector of the economy. This two-year tuition freeze is a much needed and long-overdue reprieve.”

But UT-Austin chief Powers expressed disappointment. He had hoped to use the extra tuition money for items such as freshman advising, additional courses required for graduation and for programs to help students earn their degrees within four years.

“ ‘There is a tremendous difference between a one-time allocation and solid, recurring allocations,’ he said after the regents' unanimous vote. ‘Programs have to persist’ to succeed in boosting graduation rates. ‘We can't just do them for two years and (then) not do them.’”

Powers expressed those views against the background of last year’s funding cuts by the Texas Legislature to state schools.

UT-Austin students will continue to pay $4,896 a semester. That’s $9,792 a year, excluding fees.

UT-Austin students will not pay the lowest tuition for in-state undergraduates that students pay at New Mexico Highlands University: $2,952, including fees, according to the most recent data available from U.S. News & World Report. And not as high as the most expensive: $15,250, including fees, at Pennsylvania State University-University Park.

The UT regents approved tuition hikes for most of the other eight UT schools, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Associated Press reported.

“The University of Texas at Arlington did not ask for a rate increase for 2012, citing enrollment growth and new revenue sources,” writes the AP’s Jim Vertuno. “The school was authorized to raise rates in 2013 if needed.”

KETK reports that “the legislature reduced higher education funding by $556 million in the current two-year budget despite the pressure of inflation and student enrollment in state universities rising from 532,000 in fall 2009 to 569,000 in fall 2011.”

A&M’s tuition hike will further strain the budgets of students already coping with state cuts to financial-aid. To compensate, universities have reduced the size of students’ aid packages.

About 43,000 fewer students will receive financial aid during the current biennium, according to the Higher Education Coordinating Board.

***

Contact Mike Cronin at mike@texaswatchdog.org or 713-228-2850. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelccronin or @texaswatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo from the Marx Brothers movie Horse Feathers, where Groucho Marx plays a university president.

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