I taught at UT San Antonio and UT Austin back in the late 70’s. I then taught and did postdoctoral research at Yale, after which I joined the faculty of Vassar College. I have seen at close range, therefore, both the teaching and research functions of universities, in both public and private institutions. I did my Ph.D. work at the University of Florida, a public institution comparable in its goals to UT.
Higher education is best left to the private sector, where it can be controlled by students, ex-students, and faculty. Period. Public funding harms, rather than improves, higher education. There are several examples, but a good one is my own undergraduate alma mater, Rutgers University, where, over the decades, public funding caused the demise of a once-great private university.
So what is the problem?
Today, as a result of tax-based funding, university policy is driven by administrators who are hampered in their mission and are little more than lobbyists. This is not the case in private universities and colleges (although unfortunately it is a growing trend). Because private institutions are dependent for most of their funding on their alumni and on meeting the needs of their students, private institutions are closer to their tasks—-research and teaching. They are not focused on issues related to lobbying politicians for more money. Indeed, even students themselves, at UT and elsewhere, are inappropriately preoccupied with lobbying and advocating for this or that policy or funding formula. In private institutions, students and faculty actually have control. Most of their energy goes to learning and useful projects.
In sum, politician control of universities, through legislation and public funding, is a harm. So is any top-down control outside of the university itself. For these reasons, I favor lower taxes and less public funding for higher education.
What’s so good about private funding?
I want more private funding for colleges and universities, and less politician/lobbyist funding and control. My plan demands lower taxes in order to achieve this. When you lower taxes, the money does not disappear. It moves from the hands of politicians back to the people. The people then have more money to spend and donate. This assures—-even more than is already and usually the case at private institutions—-that low income students are able to attend. High taxes hurt low income people more than high-wealth individuals. Low income people pay the tax in the form of higher prices, higher rents, and lost jobs.
Under my vision, private institutions would flourish even more than they do today. The private institutions of higher education today are the leaders in knowledge development and transmission. This is the reason for their greater prestige. That prestige is not a myth. This is why the majority of public faculty, by my observation, prefer to send their children to private colleges and universities.
Does Texas need another “Tier 1” university system?
No. By contrast, my opponent, Kirk Watson, not only supports what will ultimately lead to higher taxes—-and more politician control—-but he actually wants to create a whole new university system. We should not raise taxes or allocate more tax revenue to create more institutions of higher learning. To do so is not only unnecessary; it would further harm higher education generally, and especially the private institutions in Texas and the nation.
What about the “Top Ten Percent” rule for admissions?
The people least capable of setting admissions policies are politicians, who have little incentive for getting it right and who do not live with the consequences. I want to leave these and many more decisions to the universities themselves. The result will be a diversity of policy across the state, and that would be a good thing.