Category Archives: Higher Education

Study Slams Texas Higher Education

The Chron’s got a report on a study by UPenn which basically slams Texas Higher Education.

The report notes that college enrollment is up, more degrees are being awarded and educational leaders are pushing to boost the national ranking of the state’s colleges and universities.

The study by the University of Pennsylvania‘s Institute for Higher Education Research, however, offers a cautionary note.

“If Texas spreads its finite financial resources among too many priorities, however worthy, it is unlikely to get a handle on the soaring tuition that is threatening to price more and more Texans out of a college education, thus perpetuating racial and economic disparities,” the report says.

The report touches specifically on a few things that I worried about when the whole “Tier 1” election was happening, and the reason I voted against it.

• The state’s emphasis on expanding seven emerging research universities could divert funding from efforts to boost college enrollment and produce more job-ready college graduates, a trade-off that “state leaders have not recognized.”

• The state falls far short of national averages in most measures of college readiness, enrollment, and graduation rates. For example, only 32 percent of Texans 25 or older have earned at least an associate’s degree, putting Texas 39th among states in that measure.

• Long known for low tuition rates and low financial aid rates, Texas has now become a state where tuition is increasing substantially but financial aid has not kept pace. In 2009, students at public universities were paying 72 percent more than they had been six years earlier, forcing many families to borrow more money or forgo college.

• There are “huge inequities” among racial and socioeconomic groups, with blacks and Latinos making up half the state’s population, yet lagging in college attainment and readiness. Among 25-to-34-year-olds, 43 percent of whites have at least an associate degree, compared to 28 percent of blacks and only 15 percent of Latinos.

• State funding for community and technical colleges hasn’t kept pace with rising enrollment at those schools, which enroll more than half of all students seeking a postsecondary education and serve a disproportionate number of poor and minority students.

The fact that many of these “emerging” institutions have less than stellar graduation and retention rates set off an alarm for me back in 2009. Yes, research money is needed; however, my fear has been that a lack of commitment to increase grad and retention rates would put Texas higher education into a tailspin, and the Republicans ensured that with their last budget.

And this line from one of the authors, Jodi Finney, is quite telling:

“Texas is very anxious to become California, to create more research-intensive universities. But California made a huge trade-off. Access and opportunity for research comes at the expenses of funding other areas,” said Finney. “If Texas siphons off resources to expand research universities, students – especially Latinos – will be harder hit.”

And with Rick Perry’s recent promise to cut into funding for the type of programs which are needed, what exactly is going to happen in 2013? The study is spot-on when it says some tough choices need to be made.

Do we want to graduate more students? Or is the priority some artificial status that does little to bring up grad and retention rates?


Perry To Promote More Irresponsibility for 2013

After his 2011 budget nonsense which became reality, Rick Perry is back to his old games as he preps for 2013; but now, he doesn’t want to be all alone in taking the hit for cutting education and services. Now, he expects his Republican buddies to sign some sort of pledge to cut education and services.

The compact will call for “truth in budgeting,” another way of saying Perry wants to end the common practice of using accounting tricks — like delayed payments and sped-up tax collections — to balance the state budget.

He also wants legislators and would-be legislators to “oppose any and all new taxes or tax increases, preserve the Rainy Day Fund, and cut wasteful and redundant government programs and agencies.”

I’m not surprised at Perry. This pledge is all about his 2014 campaign for re-election, and he wants all the GOPers on his side early-on–before the decisions are actually made. Before legislators get a chance to even discuss the needs of Texas children, the elderly, the indigent, and others.

House Democratic leader  and Houston’s own State Rep. Jessica Farrar said it best:

“His proposal promotes more fiscal irresponsibility in asking lawmakers to blindly sign a blood oath that will result in a doubling down of the devastating cuts already made to public schools, colleges and universities,” Farrar said. “Instead of planning for a better future, this plan ensures higher public costs through an uneducated workforce and treatment of chronic illnesses that could’ve been stemmed through preventative health care.”

This amounts to nothing more than a re-election endorsement pledge card for Rick Perry, and I hope the Republicans who sign on realize this. Unfortunately, the effects don’t make for a stronger Texas, unless you’re one of Rick Perry’s wealthy state contractor buddies.

The Chron has more from Rep. Farrar:

According to the speech excerpts, Perry will say that “the cost of Medicaid is a ticking time bomb and is primed to do massive damage to our budget in the short and long terms.” He will tout a push to allow Medicaid to be distributed to states in block grants to give them flexibility.

Farrar said in Texas, “We have the highest rate of uninsured people” and that providing health care early is a money-saver.

Farrar also said she doesn’t think a block grant giving Texas more flexibility would be in the public interest: “The legislative majority will do naughty little things to be stingy with people who are in real need.”

Perry is definitely sounding the drum beat for a war on students, the poor, the elderly, and more Texans.

State Rep. Mike Villareal of San Antonio responded on his Facebook page:

Today Governor Perry announced his “Budget Compact.” He loves to talk about his principles in the abstract, but he doesn’t want to discuss the disabled kids who lose health services when he won’t close corporate tax loopholes, or the students crowded into full classrooms when he won’t touch the Rainy Day Fund. After the deep and unnecessary education cuts that he championed, it’s no surprise that his Compact doesn’t say a word about educating schoolchildren.

Texas Senator Jose Rodriguez of El Paso

“Although there are many things to be proud of in Texas, the state needs improvement. After decade under Perry’s leadership, Texas still has the fewest number of citizens with a high school degree, the highest number of citizens without health insurance, and the worst environment of any state with the highest rates of carcinogens released into the air and toxic chemicals released into the water.

“There are millions of Texans fighting day-to-day to make ends meet. Nationwide, Texas has the 4th highest percentage of kids living in poverty. In my own community, over a quarter of El Pasoans live in poverty.

“Perry and other state leaders need to stop focusing solely on how to lower taxes for multi-million dollar businesses and find ways to help average Texas families put food on their tables, pay for health insurance, and send their kids to college.

Librotraficantes Launches Trip at Casa Ramirez

An energetic crowd turned out to support Tony Diaz and his Librotraficante crew this morning at Casa Ramirez Folk Art Gallery, a popular Heights storefront for culture and literature. The caravan takes with them a payload of contraband books to Arizona while creating various Underground Libraries throughout the Southwest.

The historic weeklong journey includes stops in San Antonio and El Paso, Texas; Mesilla and Albuquerque, N.M., and culminates in Tucson, Ariz., touting a celebration of Quantum Demographics, or multifaceted cultural unity, by highlighting Mexican American, African American and Native American literary works along the route. On St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday, March 17, we’ll host a huge literary celebration of El Batallion San Patricio at 6 p.m., celebrating Irish and Mexican collaboration of the past.

The entire schedule is available online at

Librotraficante is part of a response to recent laws in Arizona created to abolish Mexican American Studies programs. In some schools, books have literally been taken out of classrooms and stored away, thus banning them. Librotraficante has collected books and will traffic them into Arizona to ensure books are available to students.

“Arizona made me a Librotraficante,” said organizer and author, Tony Diaz, who has also brought together various banned authors who have donated to this cause.

Participating in Banned Book Bashes and Cultural Caucuses along the route are Sandra Cisneros, who kicked off our fundraising efforts by making a generous donation; Guggenheim Fellow Dagoberto Gilb, whose work recently appeared in the New Yorker and Harperssimultaneously; and best selling author Luis Alberto Urrea, with multiple titles found on the banned book list, was the first to enthusiastically support the project through Twitter.  Other literary giants participating in the Librotraficante Caravan include Rudolfo Anaya, whose seminal novel BLESS ME ULTIMA is banned; Denise Chavez, FACE OF AN ANGEL, who is hosting the caravan in Mesilla, N.M., and who organizes the Annual Border Book Festival; Lalo Alcaraz, creator of the syndicated comic LA CUCARACHA and who coined the phrase “Self Deport”; and Rene Alegria, founder of Boxing Badger Media and, who attended one of the impacted high schools in Tucson.

“Politicians in Arizona have become experts in making humans illegal. We did not do enough to stop that, thus that anti-immigrant legislation spread to other states such as Alabama and Georgia. Now, these same legislators want to make thoughts illegal. If we allow this to happen, these laws, too, will spread. Other branches of ethnic studies will be prohibited, and other states will follow suit,” said Tony Diaz, author and director of Nuestra Palabra, organizer of the Librotraficante Caravan.

For more information and donate to the cause, please visit


Send-Off for LibroTraficantes on Monday!

MALDEF’s 2012 Latino State of the Union

Got an hour and 12 minutes? Check this out.

Tomas Q. Morin – Remember That Name

Back when I was working at the (SW) Texas State University Athletic Academic Center, we hired this young student to serve as an English tutor. Let me tell you, he changed many students’ way of thinking when it came to English composition.

I also remember how he would always write. Yes, I knew he was a poet, but I especially remember how he would write notions, ideas, who knows, maybe even a stanza, on any piece of paper he could find. I had never known someone so committed to his writing. So, when I saw the press release from Texas State University-San Marcos announcing Tomas Morin had won the American Poetry Review prize, I wasn’t surprised, but I’m definitely beaming with pride to see a fellow South Texan accomplish so much. Here’s the story:

By Ann Friou
University News Service
January 31, 2012

Tomás Q. Morín, senior lecturer in English at Texas State University-San Marcos, has been awarded the 2012 American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize for Poetry, for his manuscript A Larger Country.

His book was chosen by this year’s guest judge, poet Tom Sleigh, who will also write an introduction for the book.

The annual American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize in Poetry offers publication of a book of poems, a $3,000 award, and distribution by Copper Canyon Press through Consortium. The purpose of the prize is to encourage excellence in poetry and to provide a wide readership for a deserving first book of poems.

Morín is a Texas native. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Texas State, and a Master of Arts degree from Johns Hopkins University. He is the recipient of scholarships from the Fine Arts Work Center, Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference and the New York State Summer Writers Institute, and he was a fellow at the Idyllwild Summer Arts Program.

His poems have appeared in New England Review, Narrative, Boulevard, Slate, Threepenny Review, Best New Poets and elsewhere.

The American Poetry Review is considered the nation’s preeminent poetry publication, and it is the most highly circulated poetry magazine in the world.

The Honickman Foundation and its affiliate, the Honickman Charitable Trust, are dedicated to supporting projects that promote the arts, education, health, social change and heritage.

I still have a Tomas Q. Morin-autographed Persona from TXST where a couple of his poems were published. I cannot wait for the book to be published. Here’s one of my favorite pics (circa ’97?) of us when we had lunch with Arizona-banned author Dagoberto Gilb.

Rick Perry’s THECB Takes Steps to Become La Migra

At least that’s what it seems like.

Teddy Wilson at the American Independent reports that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is about to give colleges and universities added tasks regarding the Texas DREAM Act. I’ll call them “migra” tasks.

Currently, the Texas DREAM Act calls for a student to sign an affidavit committing to seeking a positive change to their immigration status. The policy change calls for higher education institutions to now manage the affidavits, as well as “remind” students of their obligations to fix their status.

According to the new policy, which has been placed on the consent agenda for the meeting, institutions will be required to “retain the signed affidavits permanently, and to instruct students when they are admitted, annually while they are enrolled, and upon graduation of their obligation to apply for permanent resident status.” The new rules also call for the institutions to “refer students to the proper federal agency” for instructions on how to apply for legalized status.

So, why the change? Well, they blame Mitt and Newt and the rest of the Republicans who have used Latinos and immigrants as their favorite political piñata.

“During the presidential election, when the dialog became so white hot, our board decided that there could be changes to the way the law is implemented,” said Chavez.

So, bigoted remarks by candidates are cause for policy changes, now? And wasteful policy changes, at that, according to a student Wilson quotes in the article.

“Higher education institutions are not knowledgeable in immigration law and would not know how to approach a federal agency about a student’s situation without putting in peril their privacy. For institutions of higher education to handle this without prior training is in fact, an unfunded mandate.”

We’ll be keeping an eye on this. Great article by Teddy Wilson!

Grad Rates Suffer During Enrollment Boom

You mean, the recruitment of underprepared high school graduates into our Texas colleges and universities didn’t automatically amount to increased graduation rates?

In Texas, only 20 of every 100 students who enroll at a public community college or university earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree within twice the normal amount of time, the report found.

This isn’t news, although for some who work in the field it will probably be a source of increased frustration and stress. The State of Texas committed to “Closing the Gaps” in our universities and colleges by working more on recruitment; however, the State failed to “Close the Deal” by failing to adequately fund First Time In College and college retention efforts; not to mention decreasing the value of financial aid through tuition deregulation and cuts to scholarships and aid.

The failure to fully fund, and now, cut K-12 education will only add to the problem with few solutions that are well-funded being created. This “nontraditional” population in the report by Complete College Americais described as:

Graduation rates for this “new majority” are lower than for traditional students, particularly those who are part-time, older, poor, Hispanic or African American.

In other words, those who have been heavily  recruited recently to “Close the Gaps”, as well as those hit by the economy.

Republican (and a few privileged, clueless Democratic) politicians, of course, will try to lay the blame on “liberal” professors and academic advising offices, but the bottom line is that you cannot set out to “close the gaps” without addressing every single issue involved in the college going to college graduation process. In this case, we can only blame political expediency for this challenge because, certainly, colleges and universities have been doing without adequate resources for years.

The response now is to tell people, “There is no money.” But there is plenty of money which is being irresponsibly left untapped by Republican elected officials who fail to close tax and fee loopholes. And in Texas, Republicans may commit to using the Rainy Day Fund and other Education money for possible corporate welfare giveaways to oil companies. I guess we know what their priorities really are.

If those affected aren’t being targeted by the likes of Rick Perry and his wealthy buddies, then someone please explain to me this failure in leadership.

Anti-Latino Sentiment at Universities

The last place one would expect hate language to be spread would be at colleges and universities. Even when there is disagreement regarding policies and politics, one would expect fruitful and productive discussion; yet, it seems Teabaggers are alive and well on college campuses. One example is what recently occurred at Indiana University in Bloomingdale.

Known as a home away from home, the IU “La Casa” Latino Cultural Center has a special role at IU:

The Latino Cultural Center, La Casa, was established at Indiana University in November of 1973. Its purpose is to achieve a greater historical, political and cultural awareness regarding Latina/os through educational and social programs. As an advocacy office, we work closely with other units on campus to assist in the recruitment and retention of Latina/o students.

Who would be against this, right? As the fastest growing demographic in the United States, there’s no doubt that these “homes” are needed as a means of increasing recruitment and retention and graduation rates. Or in business terms, a better return on our education investment. But it is hard to address “stupid,” sometimes when people refuse to discuss like humans, and, instead, act like they did at IU this week.

A newly posted sign outside the Indiana University Latino Cultural Center known as La Casa reads ‘Welcome to our home away from home’, but someone recently targeted that home with what IU police have dubbed hateful messages directed at Latinos.

Late last week, La Casa staff found two notes. One left on a kitchen table that read “criminals deport”. Across the room on a refrigerator the phrase “you need to leave” was spelled out in magnets.

And why should we be so shocked? We certainly have experienced right-wing hate on college campuses here in Texas. I mean, who can forget the Young Conservatives of Texas and their affirmative action bake sales or their mock immigrant round-ups?

Unfortunately, this will be a hazard of going to college until Latinos “get it” and decide that they need to vote and drive policy by staying active in the process.

I especially want to drive this point home to college students who are eligible to vote and get involved. And while in college, get involved beyond the Latino organizations. Although you can find a “home” at “La Casa” type of programs, there’s nothing like being a part of some major university committee that directs events, and that directs student service dollars and university policy. Get to know your University leaders–your President, VPs, etc. Because when right-wingers deal you this type of card, there’s nothing like having the University leadership back you up.

Good luck to all college and university students this year!

May Day March on Sunday – Join Us!