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Association for Texas University Professionals
TACT Quarterly eBulletin

Apr/May/Jun 2004 Vol. LVI No. 4

Texas Association of College Teachers ~ Defending Academic Freedom

President's Column
Quality of Higher Education in Texas
by Dr. James Puckett, TACT President

Possibly the most significant issue in the coming biennium affecting the quality of higher education in Texas was presaged in a TACT First Alert on April 20, 2004:

... Higher Education Commissioner Don Brown reported that the Coordinating Board was expecting to hear in June that the Commission on Colleges, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, would approve the pilot program authorized during the regular session (against TACT's advice and testimony) permitting four rural community colleges to offer selected bachelor's degrees. ...

TACT was the only faculty organization that testified in committee against SB 1500 (HB 1544) that would have required three two-year institutions to offer baccalaureate degree programs as a pilot project. TACT’s testimony was effective, and the bill died in committee. However, eleventh-hour, closed-door maneuvering put the provision into the Coordinating Board's sunset law, SB 286.

It was noted in the Winter TACT e-bulletin that although there are logical arguments against locally-funded community colleges offering baccalaureate degrees, “SACS accreditation criteria seem to shift with the political winds.” It is clear that in the current legislative climate, we will get no help from SACS in thwarting the bid of locally-funded community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees. In fact, SACS and other accrediting agencies have been fighting for their lives (and ours) to maintain relevance in the face of provisions being pushed in the re-authorization of the federal Higher Education Act. In a memorandum (3/19/04) from James Rogers, Executive Director of SACS’ Commission on Colleges to the CEOs of member universities, he noted that

.... what we found during the course of our many meetings with key staff, was that many in Congress had very little knowledge of the accreditation system as a whole and, to the extent they had views on accreditation, it was often negative and inaccurate. We even encountered those who believed strongly that accreditation should no longer serve as the gatekeeper for federal financial aid and that this relationship should simply be abolished. However, in the end, such ideas did not prevail and we believe that we were successful in limiting significant new incursion of federal authority into accreditation. ....

TACT will need to join with other faculty organizations to help insure that sane accreditation processes and standards prevail. In the meantime, faculty should join other organizations for their national presence or for their legal aggressiveness, but all Texas faculty in state-supported institutions should join TACT. As the only faculty organization with a lobbyist but without locally-funded community college membership, TACT alone will be able to lobby effectively against locally-funded community colleges being given permanent license to offer baccalaureate degrees. Now is the time to join or renew your membership in TACT and become an active supporter, before it is too late for all of higher education.

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