Saturday, April 09, 2011

ASU's Dishonor: New Undergraduate Fee

With the Texas Legislature blowing a huge budget hole for Fall 2011, Angelo State University administrators scrambled to cut staff costs, back fill dwindling financial aid and find new revenue sources.  The combination was deadly for ASU's Honors Program, slated for closure.   ASU's April 8 news release stated:

Provost Dr. Anthony P. Blose indicated that the university would move toward implementing an undergraduate research experience to enhance the educational offerings for all students working on a bachelor’s degree. Resources for the expanded undergraduate research initiative would come from a new fee of $1 per semester credit hour to be considered by the Board of Regents of the Texas Tech University System this summer.

A search through recent news releases found:

ASU Honors Students Present Research at Regional Conference  4-7-11
ASU Student Named to THECB Advisory Committee  3-4-11

Austin Osmanski, a senior biology major at Angelo State University and Honors Program student, has been selected to serve on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s (THECB) 2011 Tuning Oversight Council for Engineering and Sciences (TOCES).

n 2009, Texas was one of only seven states to receive a four-year, $1.8 million productivity grant from the Lumina Foundation for Education to continue seeking ways of making college more affordable for students and the state.
Board Adopts Tuition/Fee Options for 2011-12 Academic Year 3-31-11

If tuition and fees for Angelo State University students are increased for the 2011-12 academic year, they will go up no more than 9.9 percent from current levels based on a ceiling that was approved by the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents during a special teleconference meeting Thursday, March 31.

ASU President Joseph C. Rallo said any change in the tuition and fee schedule would be necessary to ensure that the university maintains its high standard of educational quality and to provide additional revenues to address the major reductions projected in state appropriations.

Yet there was no call to action for alumni, educators and students to aid ASU:

Rallo said ASU is committed to both keeping a college education within reach of the average Texas family and to enhancing the educational experience of its students. He indicated that the full impact of the increase in tuition and fees will only be felt by a minority of ASU students due to the university’s strong program of gift aid – financial assistance which does not require repayment.
The Honors program Facebook page changed its name to "Take Back the ASU Honors Program."  Students filled a wall with comments, some indicating obfuscation on who made the decision.  Was it the Texas Tech Board of Regents or ASU administration?

The Honors program fit with ASU's mission (research, service, responsible citizens), but it was not a revenue producer, had relatively few students and a number of paid staff.  That made it expendable. 

The next week should get rougher as budget reductions go from picking on smart kids to eliminating staff, departments, even whole majors. How might those impacted use social media, a distinct priority for Angelo State?  It's a bad sign when President Rallo won't answer his old media phone.

Update 4-16-11:  A Ram Page online poll showed 84% of respondents opposing the move to shutter the Honors Program.

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