AUSTIN, Texas—University of Texas at Austin President Larry R. Faulkner said today (March 10) the Legislative Budget Board’s management and performance review of the university “reinforces both the extraordinary productivity of the university and the great value” it brings to the state.
The Legislative Budget Board today released its report, which highlighted commendable practices at the university and offered recommendations for improved performance. The board was aided in compiling its report by the Pappas Consulting Group, Inc. [The Legislative Budget Board’s Management and Performance Review (PDF) is available online.]
“This review was carried out with thoroughness and expert care,” Faulkner said. “The review reinforces both the extraordinary productivity of the university and the great value that it provides for the people of Texas. It also highlights ways in which we can become still more efficient or can perform at a still higher level.
“Almost to a point, the recommendations for improved performance match priorities that we have already set and toward which we have already acted. In this respect, the report confirms the path that the university has marked out. I am especially glad to note the report’s emphasis on student progress, as measured by retention and graduation rates, and on better care of the university’s physical facilities. Both priorities have been at the top of our list, and we are proud of our success to date.”
The report noted that the university has low administrative costs compared to its peer institutions. It recognized that in a list of 12 national comparative institutions The University of Texas at Austin ranked nearly the lowest in administrative costs per student in the past four years.
The report recommended the university “make a priority of significantly increasing both its four- and six-year graduation rates.” The board urged the university to accelerate the recommendations of its Enrollment Strategy Task Force, which submitted its report to Faulkner in December 2003. The university has already made significant progress in this area, improving four-year graduation rates from 32.5 percent in 1994 to 45.6 percent in 2000. Its six-year graduation rate has improved from 68.7 percent in 1994 to 74.3 percent in 1998. The university has introduced a new flat-rate tuition plan aimed at motivating students to graduate in four years while saving them money. The report also cited improvements in retention of African-American students, noting that the university “appears to have made a concerted effort to increase African-American student retention.”
The report recommended the university pursue cost savings in its business practices amounting to $3 million to $6 million annually. Through budget reductions and savings initiatives the university has reduced its annual costs by more than $30 million since 2003. The university began implementing cost-savings strategies in 2003, starting with improving how it purchases office supplies, manages its office equipment and how it accepts credit cards. Combined, these initiatives now save the university nearly $7 million annually. Additional cost-saving initiatives now underway in various areas of the university’s operations, when completed, are expected to generate annual savings that could approach another $6 million annually.
“Finding opportunities to reduce costs has become part of our culture,” Faulkner said.
The report urged the university to aggressively address repair and maintenance of its buildings. Repair and renovation of the university’s physical plant has been a priority for the past few years, and Faulkner has frequently cited the need for additional funding to improve the university’s aging and declining facilities.
The report advocated a revision of the university’s undergraduate core curriculum. Faulkner appointed a Task Force on Curricular Reform, chaired by Law School Dean William C. Powers Jr., last December. The task force is to give the president its proposals for core curriculum changes next October. Curricular reform was also a recommendation of the university’s Commission of 125, a panel of alumni and citizens which unveiled its long-range strategic plan for the university last fall.
The board’s audit addressed the university’s organization and management in instruction and academic support, human resources, financial and asset management, instructional technology, governmental relations and plant operation and maintenance. The report included 34 recommendations for improvement. It also included 26 “significant accomplishments,” calling The University of Texas at Austin “one of the nation’s premier public research universities.”