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A&M, UT-Austin tops in graduation rates, research, among Texas public universities

While yesterday marked the end of the Rick O’Donnell era at the University of Texas System, the imbroglio involving controversial proposals for the state’s preeminent higher education institutions is probably far from over.

Critics have said that UT-Austin and Texas A&M University are ripe for reforms to improve student graduation rates and increase financial efficiencies. In those categories, however, the two tier-one campuses consistently set the bar for the other 36 public universities in the state, according to data in the Higher Education Almanac put together by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

For example, UT-Austin and A&M top the list of four-year, six-year and 10-year graduation rates. About 53 percent of UT-Austin students graduate within four years, compared to 51 percent for A&M. About 84 percent of UT-Austin and A&M students graduate within six years. About 88 percent of A&M students graduate within 10 years, compared to 85 percent for UT-Austin.

In third place in those categories are UT-Dallas (42 percent within four years), Texas Tech University (72 percent within six years) and UT-Tyler (78 percent within 10 years).

For comparative purposes, Arizona State University — which a UT System task force on improving “excellence and productivity” visited in early April to glean ideas — had, in 2008, a four-year graduation rate of 30 percent and a six-year graduation rate of 56 percent, according to College Results Online. That’s roughly equivalent to Sam Houston State University (four-year graduation rate of 30 percent, six-year graduation rate of 54 percent).

Perhaps surprisingly, Texas Tech has a greater percentage of tenure/tenure-track faculty than A&M or UT-Austin do. About 73 percent of Texas Tech faculty have tenure or are on tenure track, compared to 71 percent at A&M and 67 percent at UT-Austin.

UT-Austin has the most revenue per student compared to other Texas public universities, at about $50,700 per student. A&M is third, with $30,400 per student. (Second is UT-Brownsville, with $49,100 in revenue per student. Nearly $13,900 of that total comes from federal funds, the highest amount in the state.)

While tuition is comparatively high at UT-Austin and A&M ($9,200 and $7,700), ranking them second and fourth out of the 38 universities, the percentage of tuition out of total revenue (in other words, the student’s share of the cost of his/her education) is fairly low for those schools. At UT-Austin, tuition accounts for 18 percent of the total revenue per student (sixth-lowest in the state), and at A&M, tuition accounts for 25 percent of the total revenue per student (14th-lowest in the state).

The state’s share of revenue at UT-Austin is 27 percent (third-lowest) and at A&M is 32 percent (10th-lowest).

The comparatively low ratio of tuition and state funds to total revenue is at least partly due to the institutional resources UT-Austin and A&M have at their disposal. At UT-Austin, institutional resources account for 36 percent of revenue per student, and at A&M, 34 percent. That’s the second- and third-highest ratios in the state, with UT-Brownsville topping the list at slightly more than 36 percent.

Looking at how institutions allocate their resources for operating expenses — including instruction, research, academic support, student services, institutional support, operations and maintenance of plant, scholarships and fellowships, and capital outlay — A&M and UT-Austin are first and third, respectively, in what percentage of expenses goes to instruction, research and academic support. A&M spends 73 percent of funds per student on those core functions, while UT-Austin spends 70 percent. (UT-Dallas is second with a little more than 70 percent.)

In terms of total expenditures on research, A&M is first with $581 million in fiscal year 2009. UT-Austin is second with $535 million. The amount of research expenditures at A&M and UT-Austin is nearly double the amount at all the other public universities in Texas combined.

Dividing the total research expenditures by number of tenure/tenure-track faculty (only including those with teaching responsibilities), A&M has a ratio of $377,000 in research expenditures per professor, while UT-Austin’s ratio is $310,000, tops in the state. The next highest research/tenure ratio is at UT-Dallas, with $204,000 in research per professor.

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