Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s plan to transform the state’s universities into business-like institutions driven by profit and efficiency has begun to draw fire just as speculation rises about the governor’s plans for a Republican presidential run, The Washington Post reported
Last fall, it was learned that Perry’s alma mater, Texas A&M University, had put together a spreadsheet that ranked faculty members according to whether they were earning their keep or costing the school money. To top that off, Perry proposed that the state’s top colleges come up with a four-year degree that costs no more than $10,000. Critics charged such a goal cannot be reached without sacrificing academic quality and prestige, the Post reported.
“It shows Perry is someone who is willing to take on the sacred cows,” conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan told the Post. “Rick Perry is willing to challenge the people who proclaim themselves to be unchallengeable, and when it comes to stewardship of the people’s resources, he is at least willing to ask the questions others aren’t.”
Perry, who may throw his Stetson into the presidential ring soon, is no stranger to big and controversial plans. Early in his governorship, he angered ranchers and property-rights advocated with a proposal for a $175 billion, 4,000-mile transportation network across the state. The plan failed, the Post reported.
“What one can learn from here is that, while he has good political instincts, the solutions are too simplistic,” a senior Republican Texas legislator told the Post. “It’s easy to find the red meat and to find the weakness — whether it’s in the federal government, or in higher education being too fat — but his policy solutions aren’t thought through well enough before they get launched.”
Perry, who has been governor since 2000, has filled state boards and commissions with those who share his vision and has launched a public attack on college costs.
“A bold, Texas-style solution,” the governor said in an address to the Legislature. “I’m challenging our institutions of higher education to develop bachelor’s degrees that cost no more than $10,000, including textbooks.”
The amount is about a quarter of what students at the University of Texas and Texas A&M pay for tuition and books. An organization formed to fight the changes, Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, counts among its members power Republicans such as TRT Holdings Chief Executive Robert Rowling, who gave $1 million to the conservative “super PAC” American Crossroads. Handling media for the group former George W. Bush adviser Karen Hughes, the Post reported.
Nonetheless, some of Perry’s higher-education ideas could be catching on elsewhere. Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he was passing on a list of higher education reform ideas from Texas known as the “Seven Breakthrough Solutions” to candidates for the Florida university and college boards of trustees, the Post reported.
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