A dean at the University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday described as short-sighted and ineffective a set of policy proposals advanced by a conservative think tank that have been embraced by many in government and some on the university system's Board of Regents. The ideas put forth by the Texas Public Policy Foundation exemplify "the dangers of applying a business-style, market-based approach inside the classroom," wrote Randy L. Diehl, dean of the UT-Austin's College of Liberal Arts in the paper, "Maintaining Excellence and Efficiency at The University of Texas at Austin," which was released Wednesday.
"Though they may appear attractive at first glance, several of the proposals stand to undermine successful initiatives that already promote quality teaching," Diehl wrote, arguing that the university -- with its six-year graduation rate of 81 percent and in-state tuition of $10,000 per year -- was a national leader in providing an efficient, high-quality education. Some of the proposals in the foundation's seven "Breakthrough Solutions" were untested or found to be ineffective in states where they they been attempted, wrote Diehl, and enacting them threatened the university’s status as a top-tier university "in which research and teaching are inextricably linked in ways that are crucial to both missions."
The foundation said its intent in suggesting the proposal was to ensure that educating students was the central purpose of the state's universities. "While world-class research has its role at research universities, students should not be relegated to secondary status, which they are too often today," Heather Williams, higher education policy analyst for the foundation, said in an e-mail. She added that reforming higher education is a long process and that proposals would adapt over time. "To focus on the Solutions in themselves, and to the exclusion of all else, would be to miss the ultimate end that they advance," Williams said. "If Dean Diehl or anyone else has better ideas to accomplish these goals, we invite them to present their alternatives for public discussion."
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