Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott shocked the civilized world by openly pandering to right-wing conspiracy theorists. In an unprecedented move, he ordered the Texas National Guard to “monitor” proceedings of the United States military as they conducted a training exercise known as “Jade Helm 15” across the country, including in this state, specifically near Bastrop. These training exercises are meant to replicate the unique environment that members of our armed services may encounter overseas.

The aforementioned crazies believed this was a part of some type of power-grab by the federal government meant to enslave the people of Texas into tyranny and socialistic serfdom. (Yes, really.)  The speculation was further fueled by the apparent temporary closings of a few rural Walmarts. Conspiracy theorists opined these stores were connected with an elaborate system of underground tunnels, would serve as distribution centers during martial law and would even be a headquarters for “invading troops from China.” (Once again, really.)

Now, any reasonable sane public official would not breathe life into these maliciously slanderous rumors, much less condone them. But that is exactly what Abbott did by dispatching the state’s National Guard to somehow keep an eye on the American armed forces. All of a sudden, the wingnuts felt emboldened and vindicated by their governor, doubling down on their firm believe that the feds were coming to take their guns and impose Lenin-Marxism.

Basically trying to hold back laughter, representatives from the Pentagon clarified that there would be no armed takeover of the state of Texas and that Jade Helm 15 was, indeed, a training exercise. But you can’t convince the unconvincables, including radio talk show host Alex Jones, Congressman Louie Gohmert, Sen. Ted Cruz and Abbott. Quite a motley crew has assembled to ostensibly “protect” the people of Texas from their country’s military; at least, that is what they have deluded themselves into thinking.

Thankfully, many former leaders in the state have been quick to be voices of reason. These include both former Gov. Rick Perry and former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, respectively, who both sharply castigated Abbott for pandering to idiots and disrespecting the military by insinuating that they would somehow institute martial law against their own people.

It is positively unacceptable that our state’s governor would risk the integrity and safety of this state’s residents in a pathetic attempt to increase his bona fides with nutjobs. Texas, yet again, has become the laughingstock of the entire country, as folks from Washington to Florida have groaned and rolled their eyes at just how gullible we must be. 

What is perhaps saddest of all is that these assumptions of Texas will stick around far longer than the fleeting training exercises that birthed them. Most Texans haven’t heard of Jade Helm 15, much less spent enough time watching InfoWars to actually be convinced that they are some type of nefarious plot to enact a new world order. For whatever reason, however, our governor has shamelessly pandered to that minuscule minority nonetheless. 

For shame, Gov. Abbott!

Photo courtesy of Marsha Miller.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of Q-and-A’s with UT’s deans. Manuel J. Justiz is dean of the College of Education. He assumed the position in 1990.

Daily Texan: Could you start off by telling us about the most interesting projects going on in the College of Education? 

Dean Justiz: We are the largest college of education in the country in size. We are a non-traditional school, meaning that we are very performance-based with a heavy emphasis on student performance and research. If you look at our national rankings, we were ranked  number one among publics for four years in a row. We have been ranked number one in research expenditures among public and private [universities] for five or six years. We place heavy emphasis on being interdisciplinary. 

We are cofounders of the UTeach program within the Natural Sciences [college] preparing math and science teachers. We’re also cofounders with Cockrell [School of Engineering] on UTeach engineering. Those are examples of some collaborative efforts. We took the lead with Governor Richards on STEM initiatives. At her request, we developed the only proposal for the entire state on STEM education. We’re working with Governor Abbott’s office on their current education initiative. Internally, we have the Office of Educational Research to improve the participation of faculty, and we have the third highest research expenditure at the University, which is strange for a college of education. It’s a very large college with a comprehensive mission, but we are very proud. 

DT: What percentage of undergrad students go into graduate school immediately versus going into teaching? 

Justiz: Our undergraduate population are the ones wanting to be teachers. Probably 85-90 percent of undergrads go on to teach. The rest are going to graduate school. We have 100 percent job placement and have a 100 percent pass rate in our Teacher Certification Exam. I think a lot of our graduates will come back after a few years for graduate programs.  

DT: You are the first dean we’ve talked to that has mentioned working with gubernatorial administrations. Is that something the college tries to initiate or do those different administrations reach out to you? 

Justiz: They reach out to us. I think that speaks to how well regarded the college is. I’ve been here 25 years, I’m the senior dean at UT. When I came here, the first initiative we had came from Governor Richards, with whom I traveled extensively and visited schools. She chose our STEM proposal to send to a federal level. We’re being asked to take the lead on Governor Abbott’s initiative. We don’t look inward, we look outward.  

DT: What brought you to UT and what are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your time here? 

Justiz: When I was selected in a national search for a dean, I had been in a subcabinet post heading up the Research Agency in Education in Washington. I came to UT because it was a great opportunity. I fell in love with Austin and UT. It has been a great privilege for me to be a dean at the university. 

When I came, the college was under review. There were questions about academic integrity and the quality of our degrees. I felt this place could only go up. It was a low-risk situation. If I could build a team of people with the same vision, I knew I could improve the college and help it fulfill its promise. It is a work in progress, there are still problems and we need to make sure the leadership team is always working together. I’ve probably hired 92 percent of the college faculty by now.  

DT: Have you seen any changes in the types of students coming into the college? 

Justiz: When we started, most of our graduates were going into teacher education. Kinesiology has grown. Less people are going into teacher education and more into the health sciences.That isn’t so different from the rest of the university.  

DT: How large of a role does diversity play in your college? 

Justiz: Anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of minority graduates at UT graduate with a degree in education, and we have a strong, diverse faculty. In fact, I was the first minority dean in the history of the university.  

DT: What do you think will be the next big change in education? 

Justiz: We’ve been talking about creating a unique marriage between pedagogy and content in education through gaming. How do we bring the best facets of gaming to teaching and learning? How do we build that into a challenging curriculum that really engages you? How do you bring these practices in without compromising the integrity of the content? We think we need a public-private partnership to do this, but those are the kind of discussions we are having.  

On Monday, the bill to repeal in-state tuition for undocumented students was sent to full committee for review with recommendation to pass.  

To repeal this law would be a mistake.  

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sent the bill to the Senate subcommittee for Border Security instead of Higher Education. This move set up the bill for advancement; two of the three senators on the Border Security subcommittee, Brian Birdwell and Bob Hall, are conservative Republicans elected with the support of the tea party. Of the seven senators on the Higher Education subcommittee, only two are supported by the tea party, and three are Democrats. From the start, the odds seemed stacked against keeping in-state tuition for undocumented students. 

The Texas Legislature’s treatment of this issue is misguided. This is an education issue, not a border security issue. To consider them a threat to national security is insulting, ignorant and foolish. Undocumented students at Texas universities have lived in Texas for at least three years in order to pay in-state tuition, were brought to the U.S. as children and are undocumented through no fault of their own, are good students who earned admission to college and are working hard within the system to make a better life for themselves. These individuals are the undocumented Texans who least deserve yet another disadvantage.  

The opposition to this bill holds the notion that in-state tuition is an undeserved subsidized reward. As tuition costs continue to rise, it’s wrong to think of in-state tuition as a discount. Out-of-state students pay extra. We’ve let in-state tuition be treated in political discourse the same as controversial welfare programs while education budgets have been slashed, which drives up student costs. 

What’s confusing about the move to repeal in-state tuition for undocumented students is that the bill was passed by a Republican-controlled Legislature and was signed into law by former Gov. Rick Perry only 14 years ago. In 2001, the measure was a popular move that empowered undocumented students to contribute more to their communities and the state of Texas. Conservatives recognized that the bill is good for Texas.  

In a speech following the passage of the bill, Perry affirmed that “we must say to every Texas child learning in a Texas classroom, ‘We don’t care where you come from, but where you are going, and we are going to do everything we can to help you get there.’ And that vision must include the children of undocumented workers.” 

As a candidate in the last Republican primary, Perry still expressed his support for the measure. During a debate in Florida, Perry was asked about the issue and defended the legislation that he had signed into law: “If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state … through no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart. We need to be educating these children, because they will become a drag on our society [if we don’t].” Perry covered two sides of the argument: the moral and the practical. The crowd booed. 

Children of unauthorized immigrants are twice as likely to live in poverty. Less than half of undocumented residents finish high school, compared to 92 percent of U.S.-born residents. Less than half of undocumented residents who graduate from high school have attended college. Doubling or tripling tuition could cause attendance and graduation rates to drop even lower.  

They put in the work. They graduated from the same high schools, they are worthy of the universities to which they have been admitted, and they are trying to become productive members of society with a college education. We should especially want these students integrated into our Texas society. They are pulling themselves up by their bootstraps despite even greater obstacles in their way.  

We should be providing opportunities for the impoverished and marginalized sections of our society. Education is part of the solution to our largest problems. Forcing poorer students to pay more than double to earn a degree decreases their likelihood of graduating. College graduates earn more income, pay more taxes and increase the chance that their children will accomplish the same.  

What happened to the compassion? How has the Legislature in the same state controlled by the same party completely flipped its stance in such a short time? It’s rare that I agree with our former governor, but on this issue, he was right.

Burchard is a Plan II and international relations and global studies senior from Houston. Follow Burchard on Twitter @nathburch.

This is the time of year when many high school seniors in Texas have received their college acceptance letters, and most of them are probably excited to be going off to school next fall. Many students’ anxieties overlap. They worry about being away from home and getting into the classes they want. However, some students have very different concerns. They want to know that they will be able to get around campus easily and that their disabilities will be accommodated adequately. These students, and others in Texas, should be able to feel that they have the resources they need.

Some are troubled, however, by what they perceive to be a lack of state support for disabled Texans. According to the Statesman, Gov. Greg Abbott is the first U.S. governor in almost three decades to use a wheelchair. But many disability advocates are troubled by how Abbott has addressed disability issues in the past.

Many are frustrated by the fact that Abbott supports “sovereign immunity,” a legal doctrine that a few states still use in attempts to avoid lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In his support of the doctrine, Abbott has shared his wish to avoid placing court costs from these lawsuits on taxpayers. While Abbott has promised to have a large impact on disability issues, he has also shared a desire for lawmakers to prioritize tax cuts and border security, leading many to assume that disability issues will not soon be addressed. 

Potential issues that disability advocates want to resolve include the aforementioned “sovereign immunity” doctrine, as they wish for Texas to stop fighting ADA lawsuits. They also support efforts to shut down Texas centers for the intellectually-disabled. They want Abbott to throw his support behind them. According to the Statesman, Dennis Borel, executive director of the Coalition for Texans with Disabilities, said, “[Abbott] talks about the economic environment, job creation. He talks about universities getting to top tiers. But very little about health care. That tells me there is ground to be made.” 

Abbott himself has stated that he thinks the fact of having a disabled governor is beneficial to disabled Texans. According to the Statesman, Abbott says that “having the chief executive of the state be a person with a disability sends a message to employers across the state that they can hire people with disabilities.”

Hopefully, reforms will come soon. United Cerebral Palsy, a group that conducts state rankings of disability services, ranked Texas second-to-last after judging the Texas Medicaid programs that are designed to help those with disabilities. While this is discouraging, many support disability reforms in Texas and other states. Rhode Island congressman Jim Langevin—who is a quadriplegic—expressed a desire to help others with disabilities. Lex Frieden, a quadriplegic who helped create the Americans with Disabilities Act, was also quoted in the Statesman, saying, “I don’t think we should depend on Governor Abbott simply because he uses a wheelchair….this should not be an area that any leader ignores.” 

Frieden is certainly correct. Thousands of people in Texas live with many different types of disabilities that impact their daily lives. Many of them suffer from inadequate healthcare treatment and unemployment. Lawmakers should strive to help a segment of the population that has been underserviced in the past, and allow for reforms that help those with disabilities overcome obstacles.

Going back to the students with disabilities, it seems cheesy and outdated to suggest that the college experience should be a four-year party free from worry and responsibility. However, students at UT and across the state should feel that the resources and support they receive will allow them to have the same enjoyable college experience as others, and not have additional stress placed on them. College offers its students many opportunities, and everyone, regardless of ability, should have an equal chance to experience them.

Dolan is a journalism freshman from Abilene. Follow her on Twitter @mimimdolan.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson announced on Monday he has donated his political and professional papers to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American Studies at UT. The donation will help the Briscoe Center continue to expand their political collection.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson announced Monday he has donated his political and professional papers to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American Studies. 

Richardson’s papers — his letters, and press releases and news clippings from throughout his political career — will help the Briscoe Center expand its political collection, according to Ben Wright, public affairs officer for the Center.

“The Richardson collection fits in with some of the other collections we have, [from] congressmen and even Texas governors,” Wright said. “Adding his collection helps us continue to grow.”

The collection coming to UT consists of 300 boxes of material currently being processed and catalogued at the Collections Deposit Library on campus.

Wright said Center officials began attempting to acquire Richardson’s collection about a year ago, and said they are happy to continue developing the center’s existing collections. 

According to the Las Cruces Sun-News, New Mexico State University began pursuing Richardson’s documents back in 2008. New Mexico State University spokesman Justin Bannister said at the time, Richardson told the university he would respond to their request for the documents, but he never did.

Cinnamon Blair, spokesperson for the University of New Mexico, said University officials did not try to acquire the collection.

“The University of New Mexico has never pursued those particular papers, and Gov. Richardson never contacted UNM to discuss leaving them to the Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections,” Blair said.

In accordance with New Mexico state law, papers from Richardson’s days as governor must go the New Mexico State Archives. Wright said he feels the items that should be in the archives according to state law are already there. 

Wright said he believes the Center is a better location for the documents because it has digital collections and allocates Smith Research Travel Awards, so that researchers outside of Austin can come see the collections.

“With these collections here at the Center, we are working to digitize collections, so students and other researchers can access this information across the country,” Wright said.   

During Richardson’s time as governor from 2003–2011, New Mexico improved in clean energy, education, transportation, healthcare and immigration and succeeded $1 billion in tax cuts for the citizens. 

Richardson also served as a U.S. congressman, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of Energy for President Bill Clinton.

Gov. Greg Abbott reappointed Vice Chairman Steve Hicks. Abbott also appointed UT alumni Sara Martinez Tucker and David Beck as new regents, pending Senate approval.

Photo Credit: Joe Capraro | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas Senate confirmed Wednesday Gov. Greg Abbott’s three appointees to the UT System Board of Regents.

The Senate unanimously approved Sara Martinez Tucker, CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative. 

Current Regent Steve Hicks was confirmed by a vote of 28–2. Sens. Bob Hall (R-Canton) and Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) voted against Hicks.

Senators also approved David Beck, a partner at the Beck and Redden law firm in Houston, by a vote of 27–3. Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) voted with Hall and Burton against Beck’s nomination.

In order to take their places on the board, the nominees must be sworn in as regents, according to UT System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo. 

Last week, the Senate Nominations Committee approved the appointees and sent them before the Senate for a vote. The committee unanimously approved Martinez Tucker, while both Hicks and Beck were approved by 6–1 votes. In the committee, Burton voted against both Hicks and Beck.

In light of investigations into UT admissions and the UT School of Law’s forgivable loan program, Burton said Beck, the president of the UT Law School Foundation from 2002–2006, and Hicks have contributed to a lack of transparency. 

“[Hicks and Beck] have presided over a period of secrecy, privilege and sharp rises in tuition at the University of Texas,” Burton said in a statement. “The University of Texas is in need of a fresh start, with Regents concerned first and foremost with improving the strength of the University, getting tuition under control, and ensuring an admissions process that rewards the brightest students and not those with connections.”

The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education issued a statement in support of the confirmation.

“These regents will help Chancellor McRaven advance the UT System past detrimental and unnecessary conflict and controversy, and toward a future focused on creating and sustaining excellence in higher education across the System’s academic and medical campuses,” the statement said.

Martinez Tucker and Beck are replacing current Regent Robert L. Stillwell and Vice Chairman William Eugene Powell on the board. Hicks’ term has been extended until 2021.

Max Richards is the current UT System student regent. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Most individuals on campus are indubitably familiar with, for example, the SG President, Kori Rady. More astute followers will likely recognize a plethora of other names of active students on campus, which are mentioned time and time again in the pages of this newspaper. One name that is likely not familiar is Max Richards, the student regent for the UT System. Richards, who took office last year, has not made much of an impact in these tumultuous past few months for the board. In fact, a cursory search of his name shows that it has not made its way into the Texan since his nomination. 

One possible reason is the backdoor way that Richards came into office. A 2005 law passed by the Texas Legislature suggests that applicants to student regent positions apply to their respective student government organizations first. Richards — as well as his predecessor, Nash Horne — completely ignored this prerogative and applied directly to the office of then-Governor Rick Perry. Predictably, the move prompted condemnation from pertinent student groups, including this editorial board. 

However, the move has also angered a bipartisan caucus of concerned onlookers in the Legislature. As the Texan has reported, a pair of bills in both respective houses of the legislature seeks to formally forbid student regent applicants from applying directly to the governor’s office. State Rep. J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville, and state Sen. Judith Zaffrini, D-Laredo, the respective authors of said bills, noted that they wish to both improve the quality of student regents and return more decision-making power back to the students themselves. 

Granted, Gov. Greg Abbott’s track record on issues pertaining to this University has been significantly better than his predecessor’s, but we still strongly believe, nonetheless, that the state’s chief executive should not usurp one of the few remaining opportunities for students to contribute to the administration of their universities. We support these bills, HB 1256 and SB 42, respectively, and urge the Legislature to pass them swiftly. 

The Senate Committee on Nominations questioned Gov. Greg Abbott’s first three appointees to the UT System Board of Regents on Thursday morning.
Photo Credit: Andy Nguyen | Daily Texan Staff

The Senate Committee on Nominations questioned Gov. Greg Abbott’s three regent appointees for more than five hours about admissions, open records requests, and other issues that have prompted conflict in the UT System at a committee hearing Thursday.

Abbott’s first appointees to the UT System Board of Regents, Steven Hicks, Sara Martinez Tucker and David Beck, appeared before the Senate Committee on Nominations as part of the confirmation process. Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) asked the appointees questions regarding a report’s findings that UT President William Powers Jr. secured the admission of a few applicants over the objection of the admissions office.

When asked about his opinion of the report, which the UT System commissioned, Hicks defended UT Powers told the committee members the president should have some discretion when looking at admissions.

“I don’t see how you could keep a current president from having some role in admissions,” Hicks said. “The admissions officer today reports to this president. I do know [UT System Chancellor William] McRaven is very active in this area, and he’s going to ensure there are no irregularities in this admissions cycle.” 

Hicks was also asked about the extent to which regents should have access to documents, alluding to the controversy surrounding current regent Wallace Hall, who filed open records requests for thousands of documents regarding Powers’ presidency and other UT affairs in 2013.

“I would hope that transparency would be first and foremost in your minds,” committee member Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) said. “I would hope that you would not be an obstructionist to someone that is trying to be transparent and accountable to the people of Texas.” 

Hicks said he thinks regents should have the right to documents and that policies should be implemented to handle large-scale public information requests within the System. 

“I don’t think restriction is the right term; I think there has to be some practicality involved,” Hicks said. “If you’re requesting 2,000 documents, I think there has to be a reasonable set of guidelines.”

At the meeting, board members also questioned Martinez Tucker, who has previously voiced support for the common-core curriculum in certain states. Martinez Tucker said although she admires core curriculum, she is glad it is not implemented in the state. 

“I am thrilled that we have the Texas essential knowledge and those standards,” Martinez Tucker said. “It is the state’s right to create standards. I will respect that, and I will live by that.” 

When asked about tuition affordability at UT institutions, Beck said he wanted to emphasize that affordability was critical.

“I couldn’t afford to go to the University of Texas even back in the 1960s,” Beck said. “Affordability is very important to me and to say that somehow, [affordability is a negative], in the abstract — I don’t agree with that.”

Abbott announced his nominations Jan. 28, shortly after being sworn in as governor. As current regent vice chairman, Hicks is the only appointee with prior regent experience, having been a board member since 2009.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas Legislature is working to redefine the student regent application process, requiring student regents to apply through student government before applying to the governor’s office.

If passed, the bills, SB 42 and HB 1256, will prevent students who apply for the student regent position from applying directly to the governor’s office at their respective institution without input from student government.

In 2014, System student regent Max Richards was appointed to his position by the governor’s office. Richards did not apply through UT’s student government. Richards’ predecessor, Nash Horne, also applied directly to the governor’s office.

After multiple attempts, Richards could not be reached for comment on the bills.

The legislature passed a bill creating the student regent position in 2005. The bill states student governments within the system should nominate students each year for a one-year term at the student regent position. These nominees are then pooled with others across the system and submitted to the governor’s office for consideration. 

According to Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), who filed SB 42 in November, The University of Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech systems have all had student regents appointed who applied directly to the governor.

“Despite the clarity of the existing statutory language, there have been reports of student regents being appointed after applying not to their student governments, as required by statute, but directly to the governor,” Zaffirini said in an email.

Rep. J.D. Sheffield (R-Gatesville), author of HB 1256, said the 2005 version of the bill intended students to apply through student government.

Sheffield said he filed the bill last week because he thinks student regents who apply through student government will be more beneficial to their university system.

“The contribution is dependent upon the regent themselves,” Sheffield said in an email.  “Thus, when students are well-qualified and have followed the intended process at the university level, it seems to me that they would be more likely to positively contribute to the mission of their respective university.”

Cameron Crane, biology senior and 2014 finalist for the student regent position, said he thinks the SG phasing process limits the student regent application pool. 

Crane did not make it through the first round of the University search, but was a finalist when he applied directly to the governor’s office. Crane said that if an applicant does not know the SG members on the selection committee, they might be at a disadvantage against those who do.

“They didn’t know me, so I think that’s why I wasn’t selected, not so much based on my resume and credentials,” said Crane, who is now a natural science representative for SG. “I feel like it’s important to open it up to people and allow everyone who wants to apply directly to [do so].”

SG President Kori Rady said it is important for student regent applicants to gain SG approval because he thinks it adds student input to the student regent selection process.

“I think it’s definitely a good thing to go through the student government process and that it furthers your understanding of what students are interested in,” Rady said.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

This Valentine’s season, there’s been no love lost between Chancellor William McRaven and the Texas state legislature.

Ever since the state of Texas dissociated itself from setting tuition prices in 2003, the cost of attending UT has risen exponentially, falling in line with a worrisome national trend. As a response, former Gov. Rick Perry began to champion a $10,000 bachelor’s degree. In keeping with Perry’s line of reasoning, a number of bills under the Dome this session seek to restore the legislature’s power to set tuition costs, on the grounds that elected representatives will represent student interests better than university bureaucrats. Most school officials, as well as McRaven, fear that such an arrangement would prevent Texas schools from maintaining their top-tier faculty and facilities.

Perry and his lackeys are correct about one important point — college educations are expensive. So are hospital visits, plane tickets and entrees from Franklin’s BBQ. But no one’s demanding price cuts on those goods without first securing other sources of funding. That would require turning MD Anderson into the M*A*S*H tent and St. Louis ribs into McRibs. And any politician pushing such an agenda would get run out of the Capitol so fast that they’d qualify for an NCAA track scholarship, which means that they could at least guarantee themselves the cheap education they’d like to foist on everyone else. 

At the same time, high tuition at state universities is completely antithetical to the original purpose of public education. Before Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, effectively establishing the concept of the state school, he wrote that “by far the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people,” because “no other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom and happiness.” But as it currently stands, the public university system is a major barrier against upward mobility and an affront to America’s equal-opportunity ethos.

And even though he was a slaveowner whose agrarian ideals probably would’ve made him an A&M fan, Jefferson wasn’t wrong that anyone who wants a college education deserves access to one. There are a number of federal programs that help the very poor in that regard, but families sputtering along right above the cutoff point for federal aid are sunk, and even middle-class parents find themselves stuck between sending their kids to college and saving for retirement.

In its most recent price increase, approved by the UT System Board of Regents last year, UT attempted to mitigate that problem by only raising costs for out-of-state students, jacking up their already exorbitant tuition by 2.6 percent. While that’s an understandable approach toward keeping UT competitive without hurting Texas citizens, it jeopardizes the University’s commitment to maintaining a diverse student body. As far as the admissions office is concerned, Texas might as well be a Lone Star — only 10 percent of students come from outside the state. Given Texas’ exceptional ethnic and cultural diversity, that’s not such a terrible number. But if it drops any lower as a result of the price increase, Texas natives might wind up graduating from college without ever encountering a good bagel or a moderate Republican. Enrolling students from a wide variety of backgrounds is an easy way for a school to mold an educated citizenry, and disincentivizing non-Texan applications will diminish UT’s ability to do so.

It’s admirable for Texas to look for ways to keep costs down. But instead of turning its universities into degree factories or cutting into its vaunted diversity, the state should target the underlying causes of tuition hikes. According to UT’s donation webpage, state funding for the school’s budget has declined from 47 percent to 12 percent over the past 30 years. That puts us at a stark disadvantage relative to peer institutions. For instance, the flagship University of California gets 28 percent of its funding from Sacramento. Given that the UC System would likely serve as a model for the UT System under Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to get five Texas schools ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities, the governor must consider some sort of increase in public funding. Even small-government Jefferson understood the value of a truly public university. Abbott wouldn’t have to abandon his Republican ideals to do the same.

Without stronger state support, Texas universities will have to scrounge for cash in order to meet his lofty goals, either by cajoling donors for Christian Grey levels of financial support or by raising tuition. Unfortunately, the latter scenario is more likely, if only because Texas’s sadomasochistic billionaires typically pour their fortunes into anti-education political campaigns like Perry’s.

Shenhar is a Plan II, government and economics sophomore from Westport, Conn. He writes about campus and education issues. Follow Shenhar on Twitter @jshenhar.