Creating the “No 1. Public University in the U.S.”

The Board of Regents of the University of Texas system has a new plan to turn the University of Texas at Austin into “no. 1 public university in the U.S.”

The plan involves cutting tuition in half while simultaneously increasing undergraduate enrollments by approximately 18,000!

The increased enrollments would be accomplished by accepting 10% more students each year in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.  The current undergraduate enrollment would thus expand from its current 38,420 to 56,251 in 2016.  If graduate enrollments remain the same, the total student enrollment at the University of Texas would grow from 51,195 to a massive 69,026 by 2016.

How the University of Texas Board of Regents would manage this massive growth in undergraduate students while simultaneously cutting tuition rates by a whopping 50% is not spelled out in their planning documents.

The only plausible answer is that the Board of Regents is contemplating increasing class sizes by approximately 150% in order to pack all the additional students into much larger classrooms, where they would be taught by approximately half the current faculty (presumably by eliminating adjunct instructor positions).  These plans may also reflect administrators’ dreams of shifting large numbers of students into online classes, but so far online classes have not saved much money for universities nationwide [see numerous reports in the Chronicle of Higher Education on this issue].

These ominous plans, far from improving public higher education, threaten the University of Texas at Austin’s reputation for excellence and its future.

The Austin American Statesman reports on the Board of Regents’ plans.  The Board’s draft document is also available as a .pdf file from this story’s website.

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