Students launch group to support higher education

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Current UT student leaders and alumni launched a group to call upon elected state officials to support the UT and Texas A&M dual missions of education and research.

The Young Texans for Excellence in Higher Education formed in response to the June efforts to reform the higher education system by measures that included massive enrollment expansion, separating the teaching and research bodies of the University, increasing class sizes and expanding online courses. In addition to launching on Wednesday, the group also publicized their “Our Degrees Matter” campaign — a campaign for UT degrees to grow in value over time instead of being dragged down by negative reforms.

Natalie Butler, a founding member of the Young Texans and current Student Government president, said one of the main goals of Young Texans is to make students pay attention to the issues surrounding higher education and get them involved in the conversation. Butler added she is not in Young Texans as the UT student body president but as a concerned student.

“This is just a group of students coming together,” Butler said. “We think students deserve a seat at the table, and this group hopes to provide that.”

Young Texans currently has 133 members, mostly current UT students and recent graduates. The group welcomes all current and former students.

Keshav Rajagopalan, another founding member of the group and former student body president, said the main issue of the debate still centers on the questions of what role higher education plays in society, how the state will manage to make sure all high school graduates receive a college education and how programs will be paid for and sustained over a long period of time.

Rajagopalan said Young Texans hopes to inform students that many concerned alumni want to make sure current students get the best experience possible at UT before and after they graduate.

“Every student who graduates from the University expects a certain degree of caliber from their degree and they expect the caliber of that degree to grow,” Rajagopalan said. “They want to look back in 20 years and say, ‘I went to UT and it means more now than when I graduated.’”

Rajapalan said the group hopes to expand to Texas A&M and other colleges and universities across Texas.

Jenifer Sarver, spokeswoman for the Texas Coalition for Education and Excellence formed over the summer, said the Coalition hopes the Young Texans will engage involvement about the future of higher education and facilitate discussion among the media, classmates, families and friends.

“In many ways, young people have the most to lose if shortsighted reforms that undermine the quality and integrity of our institutions of higher education prevail,” Sarver said.

“The value of their degrees and their ability to compete in the global economy hang in the balance, and it is important that their perspective be heard.”

Printed on Thursday, October 13, 2011 as: Young Texans try to correct flaws in higher education