Shedd Sheds Light on Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Institutional Research

November 19, 2014 Leave a comment

UT System NEAIR Conference 2014 Higher Education

The North East Association for Institutional Research (NEAIR) chose an appropriate motto for its 41st Annual Conference in Philadelphia – Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of IR. Hearkening the Locke and Jefferson origins of the phrase, NEAIR dedicates itself to fostering informed judgments on policy decisions that affect our personal and collective liberties.

Seizing the opportunity to reach out to the IR community in the northeast, UT System’s Office of Strategic Initiatives sent Assistant Director Jessica Shedd to the City of Brotherly Love last week to give her presentations on “Faculty Retention and Departure at the University of Texas System” and “Wage Data: Post-Graduate Outcomes and More.” Shedd, whose presentations drew standing-room-only audiences, also hosted a Newcomers Workshop with Terra Schehr of Loyola University Maryland.

Faculty Retention and Departure at UT System

Shedd’s message in her Faculty Retention and Departure presentation emphasizes that extreme faculty turnover is problematic for an institution, as faculty departure is associated with costs related to hiring, short-term replacement costs, and disruptions of course offerings and mentoring students, etc. Her study tracks cohorts of newly hired and newly tenured faculty for five years, examining their retention rates at UT System between Fall 2007 and 2012.

Wage Data: Post-Graduate Outcomes and More

In her wage data presentation, Shedd talks about OSI’s partnership with the Texas Workforce Commission, which provides UT System with Texas Unemployment Insurance (UI) data, explaining how important record level data is for understanding post-graduation outcomes. She also adds that even though Texas UI wage data is powerful, it is somewhat limited since it is for Texas only; does not include self-employed individuals; provides no data on an employee’s occupation/job; and shows no indicator if employment was full- or part-time.

UI wage data is not just used for post-graduate outcome research, however. Shedd delves into the subject of employment and student success, examining the relationship between student employment and retention using UI wage information. The study is aimed at student employment earnings and if they have a negative impact on first-year student success.

seekUT and seekUT+grad

Also in her wage data presentation, Shedd talks about seekUT and seekUT+grad, OSI’s wunderdata interactive wage tools that provide median earnings of alumni for 10 years after graduation; monthly earnings vs. estimated student loan payment; as well as debt-to-income ratio compared to affordability guidelines, to name a few.

More About NEAIR

The NEAIR is the northeast regional arm of the Association for Institutional Research (AIR), which is the world’s largest professional association for institutional researchers. With more than 4,000 members, the AIR’s primary purpose is to “support members in the process of collecting, analyzing, and converting data into information that supports decision-making in higher education.”

Article & photo styling: Nancy Daniels

OSI Expands Its Department with Four New Hires

November 6, 2014 Leave a comment

November ushers in four new staffers to the Office of Strategic Initiatives

 

UT System OSI new hire

Data Warehouse Developer

New hire John Benner joins OSI as a Data Warehouse Developer. For more than 10 years, John has served UT institutions as a developer and analyst, working previously for UT System as a systems analyst in the Office of Risk Management. Prior to joining OSI, John was a senior software developer/analyst at the Office of Institutional Reporting, Research, and Information Systems at UT Austin. He has also worked as a chemist, a science textbook editor, and a freelance writer.

John is a native of Indiana, where, as a proud member of the Richmond Red Devil Marching Band, he had the privilege of traveling to march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He went on to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. One week after graduation, he packed up his heavily used Pontiac Grand Prix and headed to Texas, where he earned a Master’s degree in Chemistry at UT Austin.

With his wife and two sons, John has hiked to the summit of one of the “fourteeners” in the state of Colorado (only 52 more to go!). He enjoys cooking, camping, listening to shortwave radio, learning soccer from his boys, walking with his dog, Buckeye, and having his head shaved annually to raise funds for children’s cancer research. He looks forward to finding time to brush up on speaking French and on playing the trombone.

UT System OSI new hire Senior Research & Policy Analyst

Marlena Creusere, Ph.D., steps into the position of Senior Research & Policy Analyst at OSI. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Marlena earned a B.A. in Linguistics, as well as a Ph.D. in Psychology. While in school, her research focused on language acquisition and cognitive development in children. Her primary areas of investigation centered on nonliteral language and nonverbal communication. Prior to her employment with OSI, Marlena worked as a research analyst with TG (formerly known as Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation) and the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services’ Early Childhood Intervention Services, and as a disability adjudicator for the Social Security Administration.

Marlena is a volunteer for Austin Boxer Rescue and has fostered a rotating horde of boxers over the years. Her hobbies include renovating her house and garden, reading history books, traveling the U.S. and abroad, and observing communicative interactions between individuals.

UT System OSI new hire

Administrative Associate

Claudia Gerardo creates a new position in OSI as Administrative Associate, handling travel, purchasing, contracts, sole-source justifications, etc. Before coming to OSI, Claudia spent more than 10 years as a departmental buyer at the Bureau of Economic Geology, a research unit for UT Austin. Armed with two degrees in Foods & Nutrition from Central Michigan University, she managed a food science lab in human ecology.

Claudia enjoys sewing and cooking, especially creating and improving new recipes – much to the delight of her neighbors and co-workers. Claudia serves on several community boards and is the proud human of her rescued canine buddy Barclay, a King Charles Cavalier.

UT System OSI New Hire Supervisor of Information Systems

Lei Wang is OSI’s new Supervisor of Information Systems. Lei received a Master of Education in Instructional Technology from the College of Education. She has been with UT System, as well as UT Austin for more than 13 years. Before coming aboard OSI, Lei was the senior information specialist for UT System Administration (OTIS), where she spent two years serving general IT needs for all departments. Prior to that, she garnered six years of experience as a system administrator at ITS (UT Austin), managing a variety of server needs for various entities on a contract basis.

Lei quips, “When I’m not exposing myself to computer radiation, I like to take to the great outdoors. You can find me hiking the trails or running near Town Lake during lunch hour.”

 

UT System Experts Fosters Strategic Public-Private Research Partnerships

October 22, 2014 Leave a comment

Experts Tool Research Experts Database Collaborations

Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.
~ William Shakespeare,
Twelfth Night – Act 2, Scene 5

And some achieve greatness in pairs ― whether familial, marriage, friendship, or happenstance ― some partnerships are just destined for greatness. Consider the famous science and technology couples:

  • Bill Hewlett & David Packard
  • William Masters & Virginia Johnson
  • Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak
  • Larry Page & Sergey Brin
  • Bill Gates & Paul Allen
  • Ben & Jerry (hey, there’s a science to making ice cream)

Ever wonder how great partnerships like these happen? Whether the story is simple or complex, one thing is for sure, the experts listed above might have had an easier time finding each other if they had had access to UT System’s latest research gizmo ― the Experts™ Tool ― to facilitate collaborations and partnerships.

Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.
~Bill Nye the Science Guy

Find Experts at UT System’s Health Institutions – Now!

Experts Tool is a searchable, web-based data resource that allows access to a comprehensive list of researcher profiles from all fields within the UT System, including faculty, researchers, and post-docs. It is free and easy to use from any device. Experts contains the most recent, cutting-edge information that extends back almost 20 years. Users who are looking to find potential research partners at UT System institutions can explore the individual institution by department, location, a specific person, or through a search on keyword(s) or broad research concepts. It is designed to expand your collaborations network.

Currently, all of UT System’s health institutions’ Experts portals are accessible:

Find Experts at UT System’s Academic Institutions – Coming Soon!

Right now, Experts sites are available for UT System’s health institutions. However, that will change in the near future when seven of the System’s academic institutions launch their own Experts portals, allowing users to search UT System for the expertise they need in order to expand their collaborations network.

System-wide Website & Tool – Launching in Spring 2015!

The launch of the system-wide website and tool is scheduled for May 2015. It will provide a streamlined search function, allowing users to search UT System experts at all 13 institutions from one tool. The website will allow access to special industry-related content that includes technology commercialization resources, a list of core facilities and services (such as best labs and equipment), contacts, and templates and forms for licensing technology or creating partnerships, to name a few. Successful collaborations will also be showcased on the website.

Collaboration between academia and industry offers advantages to both entities.
~Patty Hurn, Ph.D., Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at UT System

Background

The UT System health institutions have been using Experts Tool since 2012. However, earlier this year, Patty Hurn, the vice chancellor for Research and Innovation, and Stephanie Huie, the vice chancellor for the Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) asked the UT System Board of Regents to support three initiatives of the UT System Innovation Framework 2014. To advance the research and commercialization engine at UT, the Board granted $5.54 million over three years for one of the initiatives – the construction of a UT Systemwide Research Experts Data warehouse and big data analytics structures. The initiative’s plan will utilize publicly available data from federal and state search engines, data from SciVal and Academic Analytics, as well as data that OSI currently has in the SAS database.

FreshAIR Conference October 23-24, 2014

UT System is holding its second annual Texas FreshAIR (Academia-Industry Roundtable) in Houston to promote strong partnerships and consortium-like structures between industry, UT System, and other Texas university systems. Approximately 350 industry experts, venture capitalists, researchers and executives from the country’s top pharmaceutical companies are in attendance. Stephanie Huie will introduce the attendees to UT System’s Experts Tool through her presentation “Find Your Next Partner.”

 

seekUT Was Built for UT System Students with Input from Students

October 21, 2014 Leave a comment

 utsystem seekUT database Pay no attention to the seekUT wizard behind the curtain.

It’s true, seekUT and its sidekick seekUT+grad may represent a horse of a different color, but they were not conjured up by the Good Witch of Institutional Research on the far-off star of UT-OZ. The suite of interactive data tools and visualizations is very much a home-grown product that was developed by the Office of Strategic Initiatives at UT System. What’s more, seekUT was built for students with input from our students.

Prior to the inaugural launch of seekUT (undergrad)  in January of this year, OSI reached out to UT System’s Student Advisory Council (SAC) to get feedback on the soon-to-be-released online database. SAC, which is made up of two student representatives from each UT System institution, meets several times throughout the year, addressing student concerns and providing input to the UT System Board of Regents, working through and with the Chancellor and UT System Administration. OSI saw a great opportunity to gather feedback from the SAC representatives by giving them a sneak peek of the seekUT prototype—neither side was disappointed with the results.

From the get-go, students wanted to see earnings, debt, employment, and job projections in one place. Fortunately, the technology was already in place to build the tool—so there was no additional expense. OSI ultimately needed the datasets for their own research and analysis of employment outcomes for graduates. With both of those pieces in place, there was no reason not to build a tool for UT System students to address their needs.

Both undergraduate and graduate students expressed interest in projected job openings in the future, especially whether or not they could land a job after graduation. This drove OSI to delve deeper into providing key data points—without overwhelming students. For example: The seekUT draft originally displayed median and 25th/75th percentiles of earnings. However, the SAC students wanted more of the extremes—so, the median and 10th/90th percentiles were included at the time the tool launched.

With an eye on the future, students showed a real interest in having graduate level data so they could better understand what to expect if they decided to attend graduate school. They wanted information about median salaries for graduate and professional degrees, as well as average student  loan debt. Though all of this was already in the works, the students’ input confirmed that seekUT was providing the data that students want.

Enrolled students have also helped to get the word out about seekUT and seekUT+grad. Three representatives from the 2013-2014 SAC are featured in the seekUT video on YouTube: Varun Mallipaddi (UT Arlington, undergrad/finance), Columbia Mishra (UT Austin, Ph.D. student/engineering), and Zack Dunn (UT San Antonio, undergrad/finance).

Just last month, SAC 2014-2015 students got a first look at the new seekUT+grad online tool before it was released on October 8th. The student representatives took the seekUT survey, answering questions about their experience with the online data resource tools, as well as sharing feedback. A number of UT System students – Kathryn Brough (UT Pan American), Roberto Dominguez (biochemistry, UT El Paso), Tyler McDonald (4th year medical, UT Southwestern), Joseph Varun (2nd year dental, UTHSC San Antonio), and Rebecca Hansen (math, UT Tyler) – were interviewed on camera. Those videos will be appearing on the seekUT website in the future.

Nancy Fairbank, Student Government vice president and member of SAC, was invited to accompany OSI vice chancellor Stephanie Huie and director David Troutman to Washington, D.C. The political science major from UT Dallas was asked to share her thoughts and ideas about seekUT and seekUT+grad during a number of meetings on Capitol Hill. For more about Nancy’s trip to D.C., read her blog UT Dallas Student Nancy Fairbank Goes to Washington on UTFacts Online.

UT Dallas Student Nancy Fairbank Goes to Washington

October 14, 2014 Leave a comment
seekUT higher ed data tool D.C. trip

UT Dallas student Nancy Fairbank at UT System’s Archer Center in Washington, D.C.

UTFacts Online Welcomes Guest Blogger – UT Dallas Student Nancy Fairbank

 
Last week, UT System’s Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) launched an updated version of seekUT along with the new seekUT+grad tool (see press release). Simultaneous to the release, OSI’s Vice Chancellor Stephanie Huie and Director David Troutman journeyed to Washington, D.C., to meet with representatives on Capitol Hill and to discuss the potential impact of seekUT’s data on undergraduate, graduate, and professional UT students and their families. Traveling with the OSI coterie was Nancy Fairbank – UT Dallas political science major and Student Government vice president. Also a member of the UT System Student Advisory Council (SAC), Nancy was asked to share her thoughts and ideas about seekUT and seekUT+grad during the D.C. meetings. Joining us today as UTFacts Online’s first guest student blogger, Nancy shares some of her experiences as a UT System student ambassador to the nation’s capital.

Getting to Washington, D.C.

I’ve always been a very Type A personality. I need to plan out my schedule each day, constantly create and reorganize to-do lists and, most importantly, be on time for everything. Unfortunately, a constant threat to my desire to be on time is the fact that I am just horrible at navigation. I have lived on UT Dallas campus for over a year, but I still confuse Coit and Campbell roads, our two main routes to campus. Luckily, my good friend Brooke Knudtson, who is the President of Student Government (SG) at UT Dallas, offered to drive me to the airport.

Brooke had just enough time to drop me off at the airport before she had to rush back to campus for an SG event – George P. Bush was speaking to the student body. However, after we had driven for about 25 minutes, the road started to look a bit too familiar. Just the day before, I had picked up and dropped off Congressman Joaquin Castro at Love Field airport after he had spoken at a UT Dallas event. The road that Brooke and I were on turned out to be the road to Love Field rather than to DFW.

So that was how my trip started off – with a panicked, knotted feeling deep in my gut. Luckily for me, it only improved from there. With the help of Nicole Watson, our SG Treasurer, I made it to DFW in time for my flight.

At DFW, I met Dr. Stephanie Huie, the UT System vice chancellor of OSI. While I was dressed down in comfort clothes for the flight, Dr. Huie was in the one percentile of women who actually look glamorous while traveling. When we finally got to D.C. (I slept the entire flight), I met Dr. David Troutman, director of OSI. Dr. Huie and Dr. Troutman were extremely kind and patiently answered my plethora of questions regarding the new developments of seekUT and seekUT+grad, informing me of the people we would be meeting over the next two days.

Our Busy Itinerary

On Wednesday, we met with aides from the House Education & the Workforce Committee; Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s office; the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden’s office. We interviewed with Politico, Inside Higher Ed, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. We also discussed seekUT thoroughly with representatives of the American Council on Education.

My Thoughts About Capitol Hill

Most of the senate and house offices were smaller than I expected. The aides, too, were a surprise, most being much younger than I imagined. Perhaps it was the clothes they were wearing – long skirts, thick sweaters, and even jeans. They are allowed to dress casually when Congress is not is session. I still probably would have worn a dress, intimidated into business casual wear by the hallowed halls I walked in.

While visiting the various offices, I loved spotting small, intimate details that I would not normally associate with government and politics. Senator Rubio’s office contained an enormous painting of a fisherman standing on a boat behind a giant, leaping swordfish. Senator Wyden’s conference room had a small, bright stained glass piece in his window, shaped like the state of Oregon. These personal touches made me like the senators, though I had never met them prior to my visit. I’d like to think the pieces were picked out by one of their smart, young staff members.

In each successive meeting I echoed myself, expounding upon just how important seekUT is for students. I am lucky – I have no debt to pay off when my undergraduate education is complete. For some of my friends, the average salary-to-debt ratio presented for each major will be an invaluable tool to them. For me, seekUT offers comfort that I am not going down the wrong path by choosing to be pre-law.

seekUT and Me

When I was in high school, my father constantly gave me articles with titles like “The Death of Lawyers” and “The End of an Era: The Decline of the American Legal Dynasty.” He did not necessarily want to discourage me from doing what I loved; he only wanted me to have the facts, and to know that law was an oversaturated field. seekUT gives me something to send back to him. It shows job availability in my major for all 50 states, for Texas as a whole, and even for specific regions in Texas. The new addition to the seekUT tool – seekUT+grad – includes graduate school information. It tells me all about UT Austin’s law school in terms of predicted debt, salary for 1, 5, and 10 years after graduation, as well as job availability. The fact that I can access seekUT on my mobile phone means I will actually have the information with me when I go to visit law schools.

I think my favorite thing about the tool is that there has been student input from the beginning. Though seekUT is used by researchers, UT System administrators, and even parents, it was made with students in mind. I remember giving feedback on seekUT a year ago, during a session held at UT Dallas. During the UT System Student Advisory Council meeting, I was able to comment on the updates being made.

Discussions Pertaining to the Academic Rating System

Another topic that was continuously brought up was the idea of a rating system for all schools, an idea that President Obama would like to see come to fruition. Many thought that the data, which seekUT displays, could not be gathered, making it extremely difficult to have a comprehensive rating system. Yet UT System led the way, showing that indeed this information can be compiled without infringing on student privacy.

Thoughts about this data being used to systematically rank all schools were casually tossed across thick wooden tables. However, I love seekUT exactly the way it is. It does not assign schools a damning and somewhat arbitrary number that students and parents end up basing life-changing decisions on without fully understanding the methodology behind that number. Rather, it leaves the information open to a student’s interpretation.

Cloning seekUT

As a student, I would heartily advocate for a clone of seekUT to be developed in all states. It provides the benefits of giving students data on schools, without the negative consequences that come with the ranking system. Furthermore, students themselves are finding unique and creative ways to utilize seekUT. One student plans on bringing the salary data to his job interview, to ensure that he is getting the best possible compensation for his field.

Don’t Leave It to Luck

On the flight back, after saying my goodbyes to Dr. Troutman and Dr. Huie, I thought about my own experience selecting UT Dallas. As an out-of-state student (shout out to Springfield, Missouri), I never thought I would go to school in Texas, nor did I think I would end up going to the same college as Nate, my older brother. Nate received a lot of college-related mail, but it was the letter from UT Dallas, detailing its amazing scholarship programs, that won him over – me, too. So, there was a factor of luck in my decision to attend school in Texas at UT Dallas.

Finding the right college should be based on more than just luck, however – it should be an educated decision. Deciding where you will attend college can be helped with the comprehensive numbers that seekUT provides on an easily accessible platform. UT System is leading the push toward more informed university and graduate school decisions, and it is incorporating real students in every step of the process. While I never thought I would attend college in Dallas, I am proud to be a part of the UT System. I am equally grateful for the opportunity to represent the students within the UT System.

Nancy Fairbank hails from Springfield, Missouri, and is currently a sophomore Political Science major and a McDermott Scholar at the University of Texas at Dallas. Nancy was a member of the legislative affairs committee of Senate this past year and is currently serving as Vice President of the student body. She also founded the first Texas college chapter of No Labels, a national bipartisan political organization, on her campus. Additionally, Nancy has worked on behalf of homeless teenagers since high school and is currently completing a book detailing the life stories of homeless youth. She eventually hopes to become a lawyer and run for political office.

Myths Surrounding New Version of seekUT Are Busted

October 9, 2014 2 comments

seekUT higher ed data toolThe updated version of seekUT and the new seekUT+grad were unveiled yesterday when UT System’s Office of Strategic Initiatives launched the upgraded website and online data tool. Debuting in January, seekUT initially catered to undergraduate students and their families by providing salary, debt, and jobs data of actual UT graduates one and five years out. The most recent release of seekUT (see press release), along with its new online companion tool seekUT+grad, now includes data for students receiving graduate, doctoral, or medical degrees for up to 10 years after graduation.

With all the excitement going on, we want to make sure that seekUT users will know the facts about what the tool can offer them. That’s why we are nipping any potential myths in the bud.

Potential Myths Surrounding New Version of seekUT

seekUT is a mere wage tool.

Signs point to no. seekUT is much more than just a wage tool. It is the first in the nation to provide salary, debt, and job data to help students plan their future. The tool goes even further by offering a look at industries where graduates are employed by level and major. It also includes job projections through 2022 by occupation for Texas and other states and compares them to the national average.

seekUT is just for students.

Au contraire. Parents of students love seekUT, which combines salary information with average student debt by major, providing users with a realistic debt-to-income ratio for 10 years down the line. Whether it’s the parents or students who carry the loan debt, seekUT shows what the estimated monthly loan payment will be compared to projected earnings. This way, students will know if they are taking on too much debt considering potential earnings, allowing them and their families to make informed decisions about where to attend school and how best to finance their education.

The data available through the seekUT tool is also beneficial to academic advisers, career services professionals, high school guidance counselors, and program administrators who are responsible for program accreditation. Presently, Stephanie Huie, vice chancellor of the Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) and David Troutman, Director of OSI, are in Washington, D.C. meeting with members of organizations and agencies such as the American Council on Education (ACE), the Association of American Universities, and the Department of Education, to name a few.

seekUT is only for undergraduates.

Not anymore. While seekUT initially carried data only for undergraduates, as of October 8th, the companion tool seekUT+grad offers salaries for graduates with master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees. It also gives a special look at medical degrees: comparing UT System debt to average public medical debt; information on tuition and fees and total cost of attendance; and types of industries where UT medical graduates work.

Aspiring professionals attending a UT institution can only guess what their future earnings potential will be.

Wrong. seekUT and seekUT+grad provide up to 10 years of data on salaries and debt of alumni who earned undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. It is the first site targeted to students that offers salary, debt, and jobs data all in one place.

seekUT can predict the future.

Would that it could. Unfortunately, seekUT cannot predict the future, but its data can help students make informed choices and provide valuable insight when they wonder, Am I taking on too much debt considering my potential earnings? or  Should I go to graduate school?

seekUT was hatched from an egg.

Don’t be silly. The seekUT tool and website evolved from recommendations from the Student Debt Reduction Task Force, an offshoot of Chancellor Cigarroa’s Framework for Advancing Excellence. It was developed for and with the input of students. It comprises data of actual graduates culled from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Texas Workforce Commission, National Student Clearinghouse, and the U.S. Bureau of Statistics.

seekUT can’t help students make informed decisions.

Just the opposite. seekUT can help students make informed decisions. It displays salaries of UT graduates for 1, 5, and 10 years after graduation, so users can see what others with their degree are making. It also provides a list of industries currently employing UT graduates (by major and degree level), which will help when choosing a major. Additionally, it lists predicted job openings through 2022 by Texas regions and a look at median salaries in other states by occupation.

I can only access seekUT in a newspaper.

Hello – where have you been? The seekUT website along with the undergraduate and graduate tools are available on your desktop computer, laptop, tablet, and smartphone. It is geared to modern students’ digital way of thinking.

OSI’s Stephanie Huie Panels Up with U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro at Texas Tribune Festival

September 22, 2014 Leave a comment

Texas Tribune Festival UT System OSI

The Texas Tribune made a splash this past weekend with its three-day Tribune Fest, providing a forum to some of the state’s most prominent thinkers, politicians, and public servants who were only too happy to dive into the state’s and nation’s most pressing issues: public and higher ed, immigration, healthcare, transportation, energy, environment, criminal justice, and government transparency. This year’s solid lineup included Governor Rick Perry; U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn; state Senators Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte, and Dan Patrick; Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, and many others.

U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) teamed up with Stephanie Huie, UT System’s Vice Chancellor for the Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) for a panel presentation “Making Higher Ed Affordable.” Rounding out the six-person panel were Dan Jones, President of Texas A&M Commerce; Texas State Senator Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock); and Sue McMillin, President of Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation. Texas Tribune reporter Reeve Hamilton served as moderator.

The panelists covered a lot more than the title would suggest, delving into the necessity for better consumer information to help students make critical decisions concerning their academic career path, UT System’s approach to reducing costs to students, and the need to address a more seamless path for students who transfer among UT institutions or from community colleges.

Higher Ed Texas Tribune Festival Joaquin Castro

Joaquin Castro U.S. Representative (D-San Antonio) and Stephanie Huie, UT System’s Vice Chancellor for the Office of Strategic Initiatives, team up at Texas Tribune Festival 2014

The hot topics for this panel were the importance of educating students about the costs of college and student loan debt, and finding what post-graduation salaries are by major. While the Federal

Government needs to clarify information and streamline the options they present to students and parents about what financial support is available to them, Stephanie Huie was able to expound on the attributes of OSI’s seekUT tool and website, and explain how seekUT provides data to answer these questions.

The first of its kind in the academic arena, seekUT gives students an idea of what their average loan debt will be, as well as an idea of the average salary they will make in their chosen career upon graduation. Once version 2.0 of seekUT launches later this fall, data for 11 graduating classes from 2002-2012 will be available – seven more graduating classes than what is presently offered.

The tool will also provide median earnings data for one, five, and 10 years after receiving a degree, allowing students and their families to select the right academic path for a more lucrative and satisfying future. The new 2.0 version of seekUT will show average student debt by the month, rather than just the total amount, and it will also include data of those students earning graduate and professional degrees.

Another important issue discussed was that of higher education funding, which, due to increasing healthcare demands for longer-living Americans, is receiving less state investment than in prior years. The UT System has taken a number of innovative approaches to reduce costs, having frozen in-state tuition for all of its nine academic institutions for the past three years.

Congressman Castro brought to light the fact that students are paying more for college because they are taking courses at community colleges that ultimately have to be retaken upon transfer to a university. All the panelists chimed in on the importance of timely graduation in reducing higher education costs, describing UT System’s innovative programs that offer rebates and incentives to students who graduate in four years.

Photo credit: Patty Ryan

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