Ryan Guillen

In January, UT and Austin Community College announced a partnership that would allow students who transfer from ACC to the University to earn an associate degree from their previous institution. 

Now, Texas lawmakers are considering legislation that would lower the number of credit hours necessary to receive an associate degree after students transfer. Currently, many students transfer from community colleges to universities without earning an associate degree.

State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo and Senate Higher Education Committee chairman, filed the Senate version of the bill and said he wants students who attend community college to receive the credentials they have earned, even if students earned that credential elsewhere.

“They’ve earned it. They’ve earned enough credits,” Seliger said. “They’ve moved on from the community college, which is a good thing, but we want them to make sure that they enjoy the full benefit of having attended community college so they get their associate’s degree after 60 hours.” 

Seliger’s bill would require universities to notify community colleges when transfer students earn 60 credit hours so colleges may award students associate degrees. Currently, students must earn 90 credit hours to be eligible.

A companion bill filed by Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, would require universities to notify community colleges when transfer students earn 66 credit hours.

In 2011, state higher education institutions awarded 104,817 bachelor’s degrees, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. That year, state institutions awarded 52,813 associate degrees.

“This isn’t necessarily a problem for students who get a [degree] from a four-year college, but transfer students are often left holding no credential if they drop out, even after earning 60 credits, sometimes many more,” Guillen told the Texas House Higher Education Committee on Wednesday.

Guillen said students who transfer without obtaining associate degrees detract from community colleges’ graduation rates, which his bill seeks to partially remedy.

Increasing the number of associate degrees awarded has been one of the state’s higher education priorities for more than a decade. 

In 2000, the state enacted a plan to increase the annual number of associate degrees awarded to 55,000 by 2015. Community colleges exculsively awarded 52,089 associate degrees in 2011, according to the coordinating board.

John Fitzpatrick, executive director of Educate Texas, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve K-12 education and college readiness, said enacting Guillen’s bill would help encourage students to earn associate degrees.

“We’re putting the power in the hands of the students … and it’s really the responsibility of both the community college and the four-year institution to ensure that the students get this credential,” Fitzpatrick said.

Published on March 1, 2013 as "Associate degrees may take less time". 

I think I speak on behalf of most of the UT and A&M communities when I say that I grieve the end of one of the greatest football rivalries in American history. Regardless of your opinion on the traditional contest, the annual Thanksgiving football game played between the two schools was truly ingrained in Texan culture and athleticism. It led to a healthy competition that physically brought communities together and created a substantial influx of money into Austin and College Station every year.

On Jan. 28, state Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, a Texas A&M graduate, filed a bill, H.B. 778, that would mandate an annual out-of-conference football game between the respective universities. Though the idea of having the schools play each other once again is not necessarily bad, the proposed law itself is poorly designed. In the text of the bill, which is only slightly over a page long, Guillen states that whichever team refuses to play in the game will not be able to award “athletic scholarship[s], grant[s], or similar financial assistance funded with state money” during the following academic year. If the bill were to pass, those provisions would take effect Sept. 1.

Guillen’s proposed punishments for the teams unwilling to play a UT-A&M game are disappointing because not only do they completely limit the bill’s chances of passing, but they also cast doubt about its author’s grasp of simple logic and logistics.

UT’s out-of-conference schedule is completely booked until 2020 and A&M’s until the end of 2014. If H.B. 778 were to come into effect September 2013, both schools would be hit with fines and penalties. UT would have to cancel one out-of-conference game for each of the next seven years, thus paying the respective teams alimony for rescheduling inconvenience and for breaking media contracts. The same would go for Texas A&M. The bill does not address whether the state would reimburse UT and A&M for fines and penalties, but that prospect seems doubtful.

If H.B. 778 were to pass, the question of its constitutionality might arise. Does the state even have authority to manipulate the scheduling of National Collegiate Athletic Association games? On which legal clause can they claim control of this situation? Another point of interest is whether the state has any right to govern NCAA scholarships. They are often the product of an interstate activity, over which state governments have little authority. It may even result in student-athletes suing the state.

 Obviously, a strong demand for this game and tradition to continue persists. People want to see the two schools play each other again. I think the same goes for the powers that be within the NCAA. There is a lot of money that can be made from this rivalry and history proves it. So in reality, we don’t really need legislation for this rivalry to continue — fate will eventually bring it about.

When Rep. Guillen was asked specifically why he filed the bill, he responded, “This game is as much a Texas tradition as cowboy boots and barbecue. The purpose of the bill is to put the eyes of Texas upon our two greatest universities to restore this sacred Texas tradition.” So, obviously, Rep. Guillen cares about his constituents and their appreciation of Texas football culture. But, there are other ways of going about achieving Guillen’s goals, and dubious legislation is not one of them. I hope prudence saves the day and that this bill does not even make it past committee. It would do more harm than good.

Markey is an RTF sophomore from Houston.

The University of Texas and Texas A&M University would be forced to hit the field together once a year if the Texas Legislature approves a bill filed Monday.

The bill, filed by Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, did not have an accompanying text as of Monday night, but a post on Guillen’s Twitter account said the two rival universities would face each other in an annual non-conference game. 

“This game is as much a Texas tradition as cowboy boots and barbecue,” Guillen, Texas A&M alumnus, told The Texas Tribune. “The purpose of the bill is to put the eyes of Texas upon our two greatest universities to restore this sacred Texas tradition.”

If either institution refuses to participate in the game, it would suffer restrictions on its athletic scholarships, according to The Texas Tribune.

UT and Texas A&M previously faced each other annually on Thanksgiving. That tradition ended when A&M left the Big 12 to join the Southeastern Conference at the start of the 2012-13 academic year. UT defeated A&M at their last meeting in 2011, 27-25.

In 2011, Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said he would file legislation during the 83rd Legislature requiring the two teams to meet. So far, no such legislation has been filed in the Senate.

“This football series began in 1894, and I don’t think it’s time to stop this rivalry,” Williams said in a 2011 press release.

DeLoss Dodds, UT men’s head athletic director, said in 2011 that such legislation would cause scheduling conflicts for both teams because each team’s schedule is confirmed until 2018.

Electrical engineering freshman Dushyant Bhatnagar said he would be excited to watch the two teams play each other again but said he hopes the Legislature does not prioritize establishing the game over more pressing topics.

“It’s better to keep a strong state than to mandate a football game,” Bhatnagar said.

Leah Miller, Latin American studies freshman, said she does not pay attention to UT football and does not know what the Big 12 is.

“I know football’s a big deal down here but I’m from Massachusetts,” Miller said.

Printed on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 as: Bill proposes annual UT, Texas A&M face-off