Higher Education

Roy Varney for KUT News

This is the first of a two-part look at the University of Texas' Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), now halfway through their initial semester.

The University of Texas’ grand entry into Massive Open Online Courses is underway. The courses, better known as MOOCs, are offered as free ways for the general public to access high quality education.

By any traditional college metric, UT's MOOCs, offered for the first time this fall, would be performing terribly: The majority of students who signed up have dropped out, there is no way to detect cheating, and the grading systems are automated. But halfway through the semester, education experts view UT's MOOCs as a success – and a necessity for building the future of its education network.

KUT KUTX Belo Media
KUT News

The College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin will soon have a new name – the Moody College of Communication.

The Moody Foundation is donating $50 million to the college, the largest donation in the college’s history.

The donation will be paid out over 10 years and will fund various initiatives, including a $10 million innovation fund and $13 million for graduate student recruitment and retention.

Money will also be used to build a sky bridge across Dean Keeton Street to link the Belo Center for New Media and the Jesse H. Jones Communication Center. UT will provide an extra $5 million to improve classroom space and facilities, which includes the sky bridge.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

Update: State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, spoke and answered questions regarding House Bill 5 in front of the State Board of Education today.

Patrick’s endorsement of the bill, which provides for different paths to high school graduation, was met with skepticism from board member Patricia Hardy. Hardy’s concern revolved around the removal of social studies classes from high school graduation requirements. She argued that turning social studies courses into electives limits a student’s exposure to important information.

KUT News

A new school year starts today for the more than 50,000 students at the University of Texas at Austin. Students at St. Edwards, Huston-Tillotson, Southwestern and Texas State also started classes this week.

But how many of those students are prepared for college success and on-time graduation? The numbers don’t look so good.

Saying a college education is the "surest path to the middle class," President Obama announced a plan Thursday to allocate federal aid to colleges and universities based in part on their affordability.

The percentage of U.S. undergrads who rely on the federal government for financial aid soared above 50 percent in the most recent survey from the National Center for Education Statistics. The data show that for the first time, a majority of students got federal help.

NPR's Claudio Sanchez reports for our Newscast unit:

"The new figures from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that from 2007 to 2011, the percentage of undergraduate students who depend on federal loans and grants jumped from 47 percent to 57 percent.

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Heading to college is confusing under the best of circumstances. But for many young people aging out of foster care, the challenges can be almost impossible to overcome.

Some schools in Texas host programs each year aimed at trying to help foster kids make the transition.

flickr.com/skobo

Since 2011, Governor Rick Perry challenged lawmakers to provide “a bold, Texas-style solution” to the challenge of affordable higher education: a $10,000 degree for Texas students.

In a recent press release challenging Texas schools to initiate the low-cost degree, Perry said that 13 schools in Texas already offer or are planning to offer such a degree.

We talked to Gardner Selby of the Austin American-Statesman’s PolitiFact Texas to check the accuracy of the claim. Listen to our conversation using the player above and read the fact check online.

83rd Lege's Regular Session: What Happened, What Didn't

May 28, 2013
Bob Daemmrich/Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

It's been a whirlwind of an end to the 83rd Legislature's regular session, and with Monday's announcement of a special session, lawmakers aren't done. Here's a look at the deals reached and the measures that fell short during the 140 days of the regular session. 

BUDGET

Ann Choi for KUT News

A UT student organization held a ceremony today for undocumented students who will graduate with their peers this weekend.

Last year, undocumented students became eligible to apply for a two year-long work permit that would protect them from deportation through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. However, the undocumented graduates said the policy protects only the students –not their families – and therefore, it’s not a permanent solution.

flickr.com/mr-pi

College is a time for classes, house parties and questionable dorm food. But as some students at UT and across the country are demonstrating, it’s also a time for activism.

Journalist and activist Bill McKibben and his environmentally-minded group 350.org are promoting a “Fossil Free Divestment Movement” to encourage American universities to withdraw their stock holdings from the top 200 coal, oil and gas companies. The group first gained notoriety when it held an International Day of Climate Action in 2009.

Mose Buchele, KUT News

The University of Texas Police Department is undergoing a review of its services. Assessors with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) are examining all UTPD operations to determine whether the department deserves accreditation.

Accreditation isn't mandatory but is seen as a representation of public safety excellence.

KUT News

Some Texas lawmakers are looking to create an academic assessment tool to measure and compare the teaching abilities of the state’s public universities.

Today, members of the Senate Committee for Higher Education took up SB 436. The bill would make it a requirement for Texas universities to issue students a learning assessment before the first day of class, and during the last semester before graduation. The assessment would act as a tool to monitor student growth.

flickr.com/gigabit77

A federal court in Houston found Dereon Kelley guilty in last year’s bomb hoax at Texas State University.

The 22-year-old Bryan man was convicted on three counts of using the Internet for a false bomb threat to intimidate people at the university.

"My first thought was I need to go catch him."

edx.org

Update: The University of Texas System says nearly 15,000 people from around the world have signed up for free, online classes offered by the University of Texas at Austin in just the first three days of enrollment.

The most popular edX class offered by UT so far is Energy 101  –  with more than 5,000 registrants.

Elizabeth Day (courtesy BGK Architects)

Austin Community College is breaking ground today at a vacant JCPenney store in Highland Mall. The store will be converted into a learning environment for ACC.

"This is a really big day for ACC as well as the surrounding neighborhood and in fact all of the communities that we serve," ACC spokesperson Alexis Patterson said. "It’s great for the area. It brings new life, new people coming to the mall. And the mall’s still in operation, so we’re excited about the boost this is going to give to the mall as a whole.”

Teresa Vieira for KUT News

Colleges and universities in Texas are struggling to pay for the tuition benefits they give to qualifying veterans and their dependents as part of a program called the Hazlewood Act.

As the number of veterans rises, higher education leaders say their institutions need help tackling the costs.

“We continuously get pulled at not to increase tuition. We don’t want to increase tuition. But those are the issues that we follow," Kenth Hance, Texas Tech University Systems Chancellor, says.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

There’s a new effort at the Texas Capitol to tie higher education funding to results -- to use a business term, “productivity.”

And that’s the word Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond used today at an event headlined by State Representative Dan Branch, R-Dallas, the chairman of the House Higher Education Committee.

Branch has a bill connecting the amount of money colleges get from the state to the number of graduates they turn out.

nikkorsnapper/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/pitmanra/

St. Edwards University has received the largest single-gift in its history. Austinites Pat and Bill Munday gave a cash gift of $20 million dollars to the Catholic university. The money will be used to provide scholarships for up to 150 students per year. 

Laing Shi / KUT News

Texas schools rank low in costs but average in student debt on new college scorecards released by the Department of Education last night.

During his State of the Union address last night, President Barack Obama announced an online college scorecard that aims to provide information about college affordability for students.

edx.org

Beginning this fall, the University of Texas will start offering free online courses through the non-profit organization EdX.

The UT Board of Regents authorized a partnership with EdX last fall. As KUT News wrote at the time, classes offered through EdX are not for college credit; instead, participants can earn a "certificate of mastery." The university says its also exploring the expansion of online learning for enrolled students.

Texas State University

The St. David's Foundation says it will spend $2 million to help fund a master's of science in nursing program at the Texas State University Round Rock Campus.

The program would allow registered nurses to become certified as nurse practitioners, which means they could take on many of the responsibilities of a primary care physician. 

KUT News

University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers says UT could save up to $490 million dollars over a decade by changing its operations system.  

Powers presented the cost-cutting recommendations, "Smarter Systems for a Greater UT "at a press conference today. The recommendation came from a committee of local business leaders Powers put together last April. The committee put forward measures raising the prices of housing, food and parking, outsourcing some parts of UT’s operation and commercializing UT-generated technology.

KUT News

Some professors at the University of Texas are raising concerns over the university’s new conflict of interest policy.


UT put the the new policy into place in August 2012.  It requires faculty to disclose their financial information and the financial information of their spouse or dependent child whenever there is the possibility of a conflict of interest. The policy follows two controversial incidents last summer, when two UT professors were accused of conflicts of interest relating to studies they published.

Bobby Blanchard for KUT News

Preliminary budgets in the Texas Legislature show cuts to higher education funding. Today and Monday, state lawmakers will hear from individual state universities and university systems about what funding they need.

The state’s higher education institutions will present their funding requests to the Texas Senate Finance Committee. The Texas State University System, the Texas Tech University System, the University of Houston System and the University of North Texas System will present today. The University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems will speak to the committee on Monday.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

When Dr. M. Katherine Banks took over as the dean of Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M University and vice chancellor for engineering at Texas A&M University System last year, she encountered a few surprises.

Tamir Kalifa, Texas Tribune

At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, three conservative groups — the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the National Association of Scholars and the Texas Association of Scholars — will release a sure-to-be controversial report alleging that the University of Texas and Texas A&M University offer students "a less-than-comprehensive picture of history.”

The report’s rollout is part of a three-day policy orientation by the TPPF, an Austin-based think tank that has been tied to some of the state's most hotly-debated proposed higher education reforms. It signals a renewed push to reconsider the course offerings in the history departments of the state’s public universities, and particularly to boost the number of courses dedicated to the study Western Civilization.

KUT News

A group that formed in 2011 in response to a prominent push for higher education policy proposals it viewed as misguided released a report on Thursday that makes a case for the value of the state's flagship universities: the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University.

The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education report was written by Michael McLendon, a professor of higher education policy and leadership at Southern Methodist University. He previously worked at Vanderbilt University, where he completed much of the work on the report.

The University of Texas’ graduation rate is under scrutiny as the school attempts different ways to increase the number of students graduating in four years.

In February a task force assembled by UT President Bill Powers offered 60 suggestions to encourage students to earn their degree more quickly.

In late August and early September, UT began a sort of branding campaign. The number 2016 (signifying the graduation date for incoming freshmen) began to appear all around campus: on shirts, on tote bags, and even on Twitter (as #2016 became a popular hashtag).

Pages