UT System Regent Kevin Eltife, the youngest child of three, was raised by his mother on veteran administrative and social security benefits and has always been passionate about higher education.
“I firmly believe that we’ve got to do everything that we can to provide affordable tuition and access to higher education for all of our students in Texas,” Eltife said. “My heart has been in higher education … I have a real passion for (it).”
Eltife was born in Tyler, Texas and graduated from UT-Austin in 1981 with a bachelor of business administration. His mother raised him and his two siblings on her own after his father, who was in the Air Force, passed away when Etlife was one and a half years old.
“My mother really instilled in us to further our education as much as possible,” Eltife said.
Eltife recently accepted Gov. Greg Abbott’s nomination to become one of the three new UT System regents, officially beginning his term last week. Eltife said he was honored to continue serving Texas and promoting his agenda for higher education, as he has served on the Tyler City Council for five years, was mayor of Tyler for six years and served in the Texas senate for 14 years.
“During my time in the Senate, I pushed hard to properly fund higher education, I pushed hard to provide money for facilities for higher education,” Eltife said. “When Gov. Abbott called and asked if I would be interested in being a UT regent, because of my alma mater, because I care about higher education and truly care about students and making sure we have an affordable and accessible education in place in Texas, I accepted.”
Eltife said he hopes to assist all 14 UT institutions however he can. He said it’s “critical” to provide funds for higher education in Texas and the nation, especially with the recent confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.
“Getting a college education has become so expensive for so many students and we see the burden of student loans and we’ve got to really focus on the country and the state (on) making it affordable,” Eltife said. “It’s the key to our state’s future (and) our country’s future.”
Last week the UT Board of Regents held its first meeting of the semester with the newly confirmed regents. Eltife, who was confirmed during that week, was not quiet during the meeting and spoke out to ask Chancellor William McRaven how funding is handled for the System.
Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, who has worked with Eltife in the Texas Senate, said Eltife is an experienced worker who is never afraid to ask questions
“Because he has served on the finance committee, he understands the budgeting process and knows the means of the various institutions that comprise the UT System,” Zaffirini said. “He’s not always nice. He has tough questions and is tough when he needs to be. He has a different aspect in his personality and that is that he is tough, shrewd and analytical and he will demand accountability and efficiency.”