Higher ed experts talk rise of online classes, budget cuts
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013 00:03
Professionals in the Texas education system fielded questions Wednesday on challenges facing public and higher education as part of a lecture titled “Cost vs. Quality: The Future of American Higher Education.”
During the lecture, presented by the MSC Wiley Lecture Series and the Student Conference on National Affairs, Mary Smith and Robert Scott — professionals in the Texas education system — discussed topics from education reform to budget and research cuts.
Smith, assistant deputy commissioner for academic planning and policy for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, said a diploma is non-negotiable in the modern world.
“I believe the only way to do what you want with your life is to get an education,” Smith said. “Education is necessary, whether that be vocational training, high school or a college degree.”
Scott, former Texas commissioner of education, oversaw all of K-12 public education in Texas during his tenure. He said that the distinction between a high school education and a college education should not be so clear.
“We want to blur the lines between high school and college,” Scott said. “We want to see high school students fully prepared to go to college and succeed, and with dual credit and standardized tests we have already seen significant gains.”
After opening remarks, students and University employees asked questions of Smith and Scott, many of which dealt with the topic of budget cuts and online classes. Scott said the fine arts as well as trade schools have been severely impacted by recent budget cuts.
Students raised their hands when Smith asked audience members if they had taken an online class.
“Right now, the coordinating board is seeing a big movement toward online classes,” Smith said. “We feel that by 2020, a large percentage of students will be enrolled in both online and lecture classes.”
Both speakers said Texas is making progress to become one of the top states in terms of high school and college graduation rates.
Sarah Armstrong, chair of the Wiley Lecture Series and senior economics and political science double major, said the topic of higher education was an obvious choice when planning the lecture series.
“It is a common issue that affects all students on campus,” Armstrong said. “We wanted something that everybody could have an opinion about and bring that to the conversation.”
Armstrong said Smith and Scott were chosen to bring diversity to the issue.
“We wanted a comprehensive perspective that would be informative for all students,” Armstrong said. “Dr. Smith is extremely knowledgeable about the costs and quality of higher education and Robert Scott brings in another dimension about K-12.”
Armstrong said the information Smith and Scott presented is applicable to all A&M students.
“We are all students and we all care about higher education,” Armstrong said.