UT System report assesses performance

In the first of a proposed series of annual accountability reports compiled by the UT System, UTD was one of only two undergraduate institutions in the 15-school system with graduation rates higher than the national average.

UT Austin topped the list with a graduation rate of 71.9 percent of the 1996 entering class, ahead of UTD (51.8 percent of 1996 entering class). Both schools placed ahead of the national average of 50.7 percent of the same class, according to the report.

The accountability report, released March 11, contains vital statistics for the System’s 15 schools and compares actual performance to institution and systemwide standards.

“The public has a right to know how its money is spent. The students have a right to know how their money is spent,” said Lawrence Redlinger, executive director for strategic planning and analysis at UTD. “We are a public institution and are accountable for our spending.”

The report includes graduation and attrition rates, demographics and average standardized scores, among other statistics.

One measure in which UTD finished last among UT System schools was in the area of senior evaluation of upper-division classes. In that measure, fewer than eighty percent of senior participants rating classes either “excellent” or “good.”

“Students, faculty and staff have a right to know how the university is doing and what each of them, as a vital component of the university, needs to do better,” Redlinger said.

The planned annual assessment serves other purposes as well, Redlinger said.

“The report should make politicians more comfortable with deregulation, especially if they feel they cannot fully fund education at the level it needs to be funded to be successful in fulfilling state policy goals,” Redlinger said.

The report, commissioned by UT System Chancellor Mark Yudof, was initiated by an executive order from Texas Gov. Rick Perry requiring accountability measures for state-supported educational institutions.

Schools contributed their own information, so the statistics are as up-to-date and accurate as possible, and have been verified by the schools, Redlinger said.

He added that some of the information was collected from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) along with other data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board data reporting system.

The schools submitted information to national databases in order to use the same standards and definitions when looking at schools with similar degree plans, strengths or intent.

According to the report, there are not any schools in the state with a similar structure against which UTD could be measured. UTD instead compares itself to national selective four-year universities without medical or law schools, among which Georgia Tech sits comfortably at the top of the list.

“We cannot compare our school to MIT because they are a private university with a large endowment,” Redlinger said.

Georgia Tech, however, is an attainable and realistic goal. Redlinger said he hopes UTD will reach Georgia Tech’s status within 20 years.

“The report is an affirmation of how far we’ve gone and what we have been able to do with the resources we have,” Redlinger said. “It also shows the gaps we need to try to close.”

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