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Texplainer: Could Universities Undergo Sunset Review?

Hey, Texplainer: Could the state’s public universities go through the so-called sunset review process, forcing them to periodically defend their existence to state legislators?

The issue came up at a November hearing of the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency, a group formed earlier this year amid tense debate over the operations of higher education institutions in the state.

A co-chair of the committee, state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, cited a recommendation from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank whose higher education proposals she has openly opposed, that was delivered to legislators prior to the recent legislative session. It called for lawmakers to “study the feasibility, the pros, and the cons of placing universities under sunset review.”

Most state agencies go through the high-stakes process every 12 years. Their operations are scrutinized and the Legislature decides whether they should continue to operate. If legislators don't act to keep an agency in sunset alive, it shuts down.

“If the Legislature were to adopt such a recommendation, how would your universities in your system be impacted?” Zaffirini asked a group of university system chancellors who had been invited to testify on matters of governance.

As might be expected, the chancellors didn’t go for the idea.

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