Senate Interim Charges Released

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has released the list of interim charges that Texas Senate committees will study before the Legislature reconvenes in January 2011. View the full list of charges here: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/assets/pdf/SenateInterimCharges81.pdf. The following summary of charges are expected to be the most relevant to TACT:

Education:

7. Review dual credit courses including the cost of delivery, funding mechanisms, and possibility of a statewide dual credit system. This review should also include an examination of the rigor, quality and consistency of dual credit courses. (Joint charge with Senate Higher Education Committee)

Finance:

1. Review and make recommendations regarding existing and future public debt at all levels of government in Texas, including independent school districts, cities, other local governments and the Texas Guaranteed Tuition Plan.

5. Examine the Texas Tomorrow fund and its impact on institutions of higher education. Assess current and future costs, the ability of institutions to absorb the costs, and make recommendations for ensuring a sound fiscal approach to managing the fund for the future.

7. Study and make recommendations regarding formula funding and its impact on the cost of attendance and methods of financing higher education institutions, including funding differences for pharmacy and nursing programs; research funding; performance funding; and funding for institutions that face capacity student enrollment. Specifically address the following:

  • Methods of financing capital projects at higher education institutions, including the levels of deferred maintenance, the impact of deferred maintenance on the ability to offer basic instructional services, and the methods used to finance deferred maintenance projects. Recommend alternatives for providing a structured and recurring funding mechanism more suited to the state’s fiscal capacity and institutional needs
  • Supplemental funding for structured programs that are essential for student success and for meeting the goals of Closing the Gaps, including those that provide concentrated student academic and personal support services for universities that enroll a high proportion of non-traditional or at-risk students. Study and make recommendations regarding quality and effectiveness of academic advising, focusing on resources, staff development, and impact on time-to-degree.

Higher Education:

1. Study and make recommendations regarding more cost-effective funding of financial aid, including ways to restructure financial aid programs to promote student success and the efficacy of the current $365 million in current exemptions and waivers offered to students at institutions of higher education. Examine the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and determine the impact on eligibility for existing Texas financial aid programs and on data availability resulting from the simplification. Include recommendations on how to expand the TEXAS Grant and B-on-Time programs.

2. Review community college service areas to ensure that student needs are being met in the most effective and efficient manner. Study and make recommendations to improve the productivity and cost-effectiveness of the community college/university model for producing baccalaureate degrees, including identifying proven best practices; analyzing success rates of similar cohorts of students by comparing those who begin at community colleges with those who being at four-year institutions; and analyzing transfer issues including dual admissions programs and academic advising services to facilitate a seamless transfer from two-year to four-year institutions. Include an assessment of the role of technical and vocational training programs and their impact on jobs.

3. Study and make recommendations regarding improving developmental education, which costs the state over $100 million per year, with a focus on enhancing student success in these courses.

4. Study and make recommendations regarding the current accountability system and ways to measure student progress, faculty workload, and student advising; and to improve time-to-degree. Examine the quality of academic advising services to ensure that students are taking courses relevant to their degree program and are on path for graduation. Study and make recommendations to eliminate unnecessary or duplicative reporting requirements.

5. Examine cost drivers in higher education. Recommend opportunities for achieving cost efficiencies including reporting requirements, three-year degree programs, and community college baccalaureate degree programs. Study and make recommendations regarding more effective means of using technology, including digital textbooks and online degree programs, to improve access, enhance quality, and reduce the cost of higher education while preserving excellence.

6. Review the structure and operation of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Evaluate the board’s data collection systems, including costs to higher education institutions, and make recommendations for improvements. Include an assessment of higher education reporting requirements and make recommendations to eliminate duplicate requirements and streamline reporting.

9. Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Higher Education, 81st Legislature, Regular and Called Sessions, and make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance and/or complete implementation. Specifically, focus the following, as well as tuition legislation:

  • HB 51 relating to emerging research Tier 1 universities:
  • SB 175 relating to top ten percent

State Affairs

2. Monitor the actuarial and financial conditions of the pension and health care programs administered by the Teacher Retirement System and the Employees Retirement System. Assess the effectiveness of pilot programs designed to encourage the use of clinical integration, payments for good outcomes, use of best practices, focus on wellness and prevention, and bundling of costs for episodes of care, and other health care savings initiatives. Make recommendations for expanding the pilot programs for use across all private and state sponsored health care, including the Medicaid program, as a means to improve Texans’ health and provide more effective care that allows for assistance for the uninsured. (SB 7, SB 8, SB 10, 81st Legislature)