AUSTIN, TexasThe Task Force on Enrollment Strategy at The University of Texas at Austin has recommended increasing the size of the faculty, reducing the student population to 48,000 over the next five years and pursuing legislative changes that would limit the percentage of new students admitted under the state’s Top 10 Percent Law.
The task force, headed by Dr. Isabella Cunningham, chairwoman of the Department of Advertising, emphasized that the size of the student body must be driven by the university’s goal to be one of the top three public universities in the nation and that quality of education must be the first priority.
“The task force worked extremely hard over a long period to digest issues that are critical to this university and to Texas at large,” said Larry R. Faulkner, president of The University of Texas at Austin. “At stake is our ability to offer Texans educational programs comparable with the best in America, but in an affordable, public context. Quality matters to students and to the health of Texas. This report is about how to assure that this public university can continue to make quality a reality for hundreds of thousands yet to attend. It will guide the development of the university for decades to come, and I am grateful to Professor Cunningham and her colleagues for their hard, effective work.”
Faulkner said he will ask the university community to comment on the report in the next 45 days.
The 19-member Task Force on Enrollment Strategy also endorsed the university’s recent recommendation to the University of Texas System that race and ethnicity be among the criteria considered in the holistic review of applicants for admission to the university.
“The task force states emphatically that the university must continue to provide to all its students the high quality of education that it has always made available,” Cunningham said. “In addition, it is essential that the university be a diverse and united community to foster the social growth of all its members.”
She said the task force appointed by Faulkner in October 2002 was charged with recommending a reasoned strategy for managing student enrollment at The University of Texas at Austin into the indefinite future.
The task force’s recommendation that the university pursue legislative changes to the state’s Top 10 Percent Automatic Admissions Law (HB 588) was based on reasoning that the use of class rank exclusively for the admission of an increasingly larger portion of freshmen limits the discretionary power of the university to achieve a representative student body. From 1998 through 2003, the number of top 10 percent students enrolling in the freshman class at the university through automatic admission has increased to 65 percent. The task force recommended that the university be required to admit 50 percent but not more than 60 percent of a freshman class through automatic admission under the law.
The task force divided its work into two categories for recommendationslong-term strategies and short-term strategies. Cunningham said that while the group has recommended reducing the size of the student body over the next five years to a population of about 48,000 students compared to the 51,426 enrolled during the fall 2003 semester, the long-term strategies do not exclude the possibility of further growth in the size of the university. The task force also has not excluded the possibility, as enrollment policies are reviewed, to further decrease the size of the university.
“The task force has explored a number of size scenarios and has concluded that no substantial growth should occur unless key strategic constraints and goals are observed,” the report said. “Growth of the size of the student population should not proceed at the expense of the quality of the educational experience.”
To preserve and enhance the quality of students’ educational experiences, the task force said, the student/faculty ratio at The University of Texas at Austin now is about 21 to one, high among the institutions with which the university wishes to compare itself, where the corresponding figure is no more than 19 to one. It recommended increasing the size of the faculty by about 170 to improve the ratio.
The task force recommended decreasing the time of graduation to 10 long semesters and implementing incentives for students to carry at least 14 hours per semester. Decreasing students’ time to graduation is an important step in helping to control costs, the task force said, and it is a key factor in enhancing quality by improving the student/faculty ratio.
The task force said the university’s enrollment situation should be reassessed starting in fall 2008, noting that it is unwise to advance a strategy to be pursued beyond a five-year window.
The group’s short-term recommendations include placing a limit of 10 long semesters in residence for students to complete a baccalaureate degree and increasing to 15 the minimum number of required hours to be eligible for certain honors programs and merit-based scholarships. The task force also recommended reevaluating policies related to students returning from scholastic dismissal and placing limits on the number of students admitted from other University of Texas System component institutions under the pilot Coordinated Admissions Program.
The report also said the graduation rate at The University of Texas at Austin is lower than peer institutions because of the average number of semester-credit hours taken by undergraduates.
“To enhance this rate, we will have to induce our students to increase their course loads,” the report said. It recommended increasing the average number of semester credit hours taken by undergraduates from its current level of 13.11 to 14.
“The report states clearly that a typical student who graduates from The University of Texas at Austin with one major takes an average of 142 hours or more, while only 120 hours is required for most majors,” Cunningham said. “Students who graduate with two majors take an average of more than 170 hours.”
Other recommendations include that the Office of Admissions, in consultation with the Admissions and Registration Committee of the Faculty Council, develop more rigorous administrative policies that require reapplication for graduating students who wish to continue as students, as well as students who have been absent from the university for a long-session semester or longer. The task force recommends that the Office of Admissions review its policies for readmission and strictly enforce deadlines for application for readmission.
Changing colleges and majors also was addressed by the group, which recommended that the ability for students to make these changes remain at the discretion of the dean of that college or school. Approval by the dean of the college or school also would be required for exceptions to a proposal that students not be allowed to apply more than once for admission to a restricted program.
Other short-term recommendations:
- The university should develop a policy to limit the number of times a student may drop a course or withdraw from the university.
- Additional classroom space should be built or developed from existing space. In addition, the Office of the Registrar should develop a campus-wide policy for reserving classrooms to ensure the most effective use of available classroom space, at both the university-wide and departmental levels.
- Seniors nearing graduation should be given preference in registering for required classes.
- The number of credit hours a student must complete at another school before applying for transfer to the university should be increased. The task force recommended that a transfer student be required to have earned 30 semester hours after high school graduation.
- The task force recommends that no change be made in the normal process for graduate student admissions, but endorses the university’s recent recommendation to the University of Texas System that race and ethnicity be among the criteria considered in the holistic review process.
For more information contact: Isabella Cunningham, chair of the Task Force on Enrollment Strategy, 512-471-8126, or Robert D. Meckel, Office of Public Affairs, 512-475-7847.