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Before UT Regents Meeting, Groups Call for Higher Ed Changes

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One day before the start of one of the most important University of Texas Board of Regents meetings of the year, conservative groups held a press conference at the Texas Capitol calling for increased transparency in higher education and the end of faculty tenure and "frivolous" research projects.

"From our perspective, we believe that it is time that universities take their heads out of the sand," said Peggy Venable, the state director of Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a conservative advocacy organization. She called on them to "recognize that it is long overdue that we make universities more accessible, more affordable, and their books more transparent." She noted that between 1999 and 2010, the average tuition and fees at Texas' 10 largest public universities had risen by 120 percent.

Students from a number of the state's public universities were on hand to express their concerns about mounting debt problems. Nathan McDaniel, a junior at Texas State University majoring in political science, said he anticipates that he will graduate with approximately $50,000 in student loan debt. "The job market is not very great right now, and I'm a little worried about how it's going to work out for me," he said, noting that other students felt similarly. "I think something definitely needs to happen with the system."

Amanda Shell, a representative of former U.S. Rep. Dick Armey's national Tea Party group FreedomWorks, was on hand to lay out specific changes the groups want to see. They called for the end of tenure that, according to Shell, "only leaves professors to stick with the status quo of the academic establishment," the end of unnecessary research projects "that simply suck money from the university system" and for a "more transparent environment," in which teacher-to-student ratios, teacher salaries, tenure status, research funding and research results are all publicized.

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