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September 01, 2011 3:43 PM UT Efficient, UT Report Finds

By Daniel Luzer

The Texas higher education systems is facing attacks from businessmen, state Republicans, and presidential hopeful Rick Perry, who argue that the system is overpriced and wasteful and in need of drastic reform. These fears are unfounded; the University of Texas system is actually quite efficient, according to a new report.

One might have cause to distrust that report, however, as it was issued by the University of Texas. According to an article by Reeve Hamilton in the Texas Tribune:

[Marc] Musick gathered publicly available data on 120 public institutions of higher education for the sake of comparison with UT. Then he set about to answer a basic question: How much are taxpayers getting for their buck? “We basically calculate how much we get in revenue and, on the basis of how good our graduation rates are and how many faculty we employ, how good are we compared to other schools,” he says.
According to Musick, of the universities he looked at, UT is the second most efficient university in the country. (The top spot is claimed by the University of Florida.) Texas A&M University is close on UT’s heels in fourth. Texas Tech University, at 24th, also makes a strong showing.

Musick finds that in the area of efficiency, the University of Texas “excels.” He also wants to make it very clear that he’s totally unbiased. According to the article, “Musick says he has no interest in making UT look better in his study. ‘At the end of the day,’ he says, ‘I’m a sociologist. I’m a scholar. The main thing I’m interested in is finding the truth.’

Well perhaps, but at the end of the day he’s actually an academic administrator. He’s the Associate Dean for Student Affairs in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas, Austin. It’s not to say that this report is misleading or dishonest, but it determining efficiency depends on how one defines efficiency. Musick based efficiency on the school’s graduation rate relative to the amount the school receives from the state and from student tuition.

Notably excluded from these measures is any consideration of the actual learning or capability of its graduates or the research produced by the institution. Merely graduating students doesn’t take any money at all; it’s educating them that costs money.

Read the efficiency report here.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

Comments

  • Kgardner on September 01, 2011 4:04 PM:

    I looked through the efficiency report linked at the bottom of the page and I couldn't find Case Western Reserve any place in the report. Where did you find this info?
    Thanks

  • Washington Monthly on September 01, 2011 4:29 PM:

    CWR is private; the school wasn't included in the analysis.

  • david mazella on September 01, 2011 5:35 PM:

    Sorry, this is a cheap shot. Until you offer some data or analysis of your own, I don't see the point of snarking on about the source of UT's self-reporting. Of course the report is coming from UT. Perhaps we should hire the University of Phoenix to analyze it? Or someone who has no experience in academic assessment? Or would it be better to spend millions of dollars on outside consultants? UT should be applauded for conducting its own assessment in a reasonably open and transparent manner. To add the dimensions you suggest to the study would certainly have added to the expense, complexity, and time necessary to complete the study, which UT did not have. So why not analyze the study and tell us why you think it's inadequate, instead of engaging in the ad hominem?

  • Doctor Biobrain on September 01, 2011 6:13 PM:

    As someone who wishes he could have been lucky enough to attend UT, I think this article is fairly worthless. Yes, it'd be even better to know how useful a UT education is, but that's a very difficult thing to quantify and is open to interpretation. Basing it solely on graduation rates, on the other hand, while certainly less useful a metric, still serves a purpose and shouldn't be dismissed no matter who crunched the numbers.

    Now, unless you find some reason to suggest that this is inherently biased towards UT or there was some flaw in the methodology, I think this post was more than useless. Particularly as most folks recognize UT as being one of the best public schools in the country. And certainly here in Texas, having a UT degree means a lot more than one from any other public school in the state. Hell, the right UT connections will open a whole lot more doors around here than anything else.

    After all, the college experience isn't just about the education you learn, but the people you meet.