House Speaker Straus visits UT to discuss higher education

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Campus carry, in-state tuition for undocumented students and tuition regulation were major points of focus during an on-campus interview with House Speaker Joe Straus.

At the talk, Straus stressed higher education issues, such as campus carry, in-state tuition for immigrants and tuition regulation.

Students questioned Straus on his opinions related to higher education issues. 

“I think it’s a great way to make him more relatable to UT students,” said Agnes Matula, advertising sophomore and intern for Rep. Susan King (R-Abilene). On Jan. 26, Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) and Rep. Allen Fletcher (R-Cypress) filed “campus carry” bills, which, if passed, would allow licensed concealed hand gun carriers to bring their guns with them on campus grounds and into University buildings.

Chancellor William McRaven and President William Powers Jr. expressed strong opposition to the policy. Straus, while not explicitly stating his current thoughts on the policy, said he would encourage people to listen to McRaven’s thoughts on
the legislation.

“Personally, I would caution anyone to ignore Chancellor McRaven when you’re talking about arms and ammunition,” Straus said.

Bridget Guien, communications director for College Republicans and economics freshman, said College Republicans are in favor of campus carry.

“The College Republicans support concealed carry on campus,” Guein said in an email. “We believe it can be beneficial to the safety of UT’s students since it can provide a form of defense.”

There has been debate between legislators about whether immigrant students should receive in-state tuition at public universities. The policy of in-state tuition for undocumented students began in 2001 when former Gov. Perry passed HB1403 — the Texas Dream Act. 

Straus said he stands by Perry’s act.

“These are young people who have played by the rules, qualified for admission to our public schools, and personally, I can think of a lot of worse things people can do with their lives,” Straus said.

Straus also expressed support for university control of tuition, which was deregulated in 2003. Straus said the rising prices of tuition are important to address, but he has not seen a decrease in the demand of education since tuition deregulation.

“For me, specifically, deregulating tuition at a time when the state was not making an investment in higher education made a lot of sense,” Straus said.

Straus said the State should still express interest in higher education by supporting research and the creation of more tier-one institutions.

Although Michelle Willoughby, University Democrats president and government junior, said she mostly agreed with Straus’ stance on campus carry and the Dream Act, she does not agree with his views on tuition. She said students should receive more aid from the state for their public university educations.  

“I think tuition should be regulated — it should be lower and the Legislature should chip in more,” Willoughby said.

Willoughby said she appreciates Straus’ moderate stances and willingness to compromise on policy between parties.

“I think we need more legislators like Straus that are willing to ignore the ‘R’s and ‘D’s at the ends of the names and focus on the needs of Texans, the needs of students and the needs of taxpayers,” Willoughby said.

Guien of College Republicans said she thinks Straus’ visit to UT will help students become more engaged in state politics.

“Since he is such a prominent member of the Texas government, students will be more inclined to come and become more interested in politics,” Guien said in an email.