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Perry supports controversial higher education plan while some groups vow to fight

Published 23 Jun 2011 at 12:07 AM

By Huma Munir

Gov. Rick Perry has backed the Seven Breakthrough Solutions for Higher Education, but the plan from a conservative think tank could prove to be a breaking point between Perry and members of the higher education community even as Perry may be seeking support for a presidential run.

UT President William Powers Jr., Student Government President Natalie Butler and UT alumni organization Texas Exes went on alert after interest grew in proposals from groups such as the Austin-based Texas Public Policy Foundation that suggest rewarding professors based on student evaluations, splitting the budget for teaching and research and increasing class enrollments to halve tuition. Perry’s endorsement of such policies in speeches stirred further controversy among leaders of the University.

“We don’t want to see the de-emphasis of research because that’s what made our state so great,” said outgoing Texas Exes President Richard Leshin.

Leshin said he thinks Perry has had a lot to do with setting the agenda for the UT System Board of Regents and it’s something the administrators, students and other members of the higher education community have seen for a long time. A UT spokesperson said nobody from the University administration would want to speak publicly about the matter, but several administrators expressed discomfort with Perry’s ideas off the record.

“I think it’s very difficult for them to speak up because they are state employees, and it makes it very difficult to oppose anything like that,” Leshin said.

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