Board strives for academic efficiency, UT System collaboration

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UT President Bill Powers Jr. and Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, right, talk with Kenny Jastrow at the UT System Board of Regents meeting Thursday. The board secured funds for a new engineering building and approved measures for increasing the school's overall productivity.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

The UT System Board of Regents approved a framework for increasing institutions’ financial and academic productivity today and allocated $105 million in funding for a new engineering building on campus.

Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, who authored the framework, said the changes are important because traditional revenue streams will not sustain the system’s educational model. The board approved $13.1 billion for the system’s 2012 fiscal year operating budget and $243.6 million to fund projects under the framework.

The framework includes ways to decrease costs for the UT System by increasing collaboration among system institutions. It involves the integration of interactive software to get students through their degrees more efficiently by improving the advising process. The board will discuss partnering with MyEdu, a Texas website of professor reviews written by students, as a part of the framework.

“There’s an incredible amount of synergy that can happen between our campuses in order to make a joint degree,” Cigarroa said at the meeting.

Cigarroa said the framework generally moves the UT System toward more evidence-based improvements.

The framework also covers strengthening post-tenure review to keep track of professors’ work in research and in the classroom.

“We will place a more concentrated emphasis on productivity,” Cigarroa said.

With the advising improvements, Cigarroa said students will be able to transfer more easily and will better understand how to balance their workload. He said this should increase academic efficiency at the institutions and cut costs for the system.

Tom Melecki, director of Student Financial Services, said students with loans who earned a bachelor’s degree in May 2011 borrowed an average of $24,582 during their undergraduate experience. UT Austin has flat-rate tuition which allows students to pay for 12 hours, but take more classes. This provides students with an opportunity to graduate faster, which is one of the framework’s goals.

“By taking an extra course each semester they will save themselves in the long run,” Melecki said.

The board also approved $105 million in funding to build a new Engineering Education and Research Center. Engineering Dean Gregory Fenves said the project is seeking $100 million in gifts and he hopes construction will begin next year.

“Research changes over time. We’re designing it to be very flexible as the needs of the research changes,” Fenves said.

Fenves said the facility, which will be west of Waller Creek between 24th and Dean Keeton streets, will have 23,000 square feet of teaching facilities and will be a unique learning space for engineering students.

“It will provide a lot more opportunities for testing technologies,” Fenves said. 

Printed on Friday, August 26, 2011 as: Board aims for collaboration, accessibility in UT System.