Walter Wendler the strength and value of regional institutions


SB1295 recognizes the need for financial support and incentives for comprehensive regional universities that meet performance targets. He’s on his way to Governor Abbott’s office. In all its forms, post-secondary education is a powerful force in improving employment opportunities, economic development and the well-being of citizens. The benefits accrue to everyone in Texas.

A comprehensive vision of how different institutional perspectives can create a stronger 21st century Texas requires an integrated and carefully thought out confederation of institutions, from community colleges to leading national research universities. Higher education is most effective when it is vertically integrated, from high school diploma to doctorate. National research universities are of great value but cannot meet the educational goal for Texas alone. Partnerships at the top and bottom of the educational ladder provide better educational opportunities for all Texans.

Geography: Texas, as large and diverse as it is, must have a higher education system sensitive to geographic diversity. Space is important for Texans. We are defined to a large extent by the places in Texas that we call home – east or west Texas, the Panhandle, the Southern Plains, central Texas, and the lower Rio Grande Valley. The higher education that works for 21st century Texas has to be geographically sensitive, and regional universities can, if they focus. For example, West Texas A&M University’s commitment to the large food animal industry is an example of geographic responsiveness.

Emerging disciplines: Traditional fields of study will always have value, but new fields and means of study are important. Higher education that works for 21st century Texans must have multi-level courses of study, accessible to all, that respond to the changing world of work in various regions. For example, West Texas A&M University’s commitment to rural health care, through its relationships with rural hospitals and clinics, creates a strong commitment to emerging needs and region-focused nursing disciplines. . The profession is shaped, in part, by where it is practiced.

The digital world: The place, the land, is important to Texans. Many will not go to a campus to study, but will study where they work and live. Beyond the recent shift to distance learning as a COVID-19 security measure, digital classrooms can also be an intentionally coordinated higher education opening that works for 21st century Texas by providing opportunity. education on the borders of the State thanks to offers adapted to the region. West Texas A&M University will begin offering a Master of Science in Agriculture this fall, fully online. It will meet regional needs. For many workers in the food industry, an opportunity for advancement while continuing to work and raise a family is extremely important.

Effective partnerships: At no time in the history of public education has the demand from universities for responsiveness to the needs of business and industry been greater. The diversity of the industry and its particular needs must be addressed at the regional level. The higher education that works for 21st century Texas must partner across public and private borders in new ways. West Texas A&M University works with the Texas Cattle Feeders Association to meet the expanding and ever-changing needs of the industry in an innovative and regionally guided response to the demand for an educated and trained workforce. for the production of beef in the Panhandle.

Community colleges: The “gateways” to college education for many Texans are community colleges coupled with four-year institutions. The ideas and working relationships developed by regional institutions in partnership with local community colleges create many opportunities for seamless transfer. Low cost and high efficiency efficient transfer is valued by students, families, elected officials, policy makers and taxpayers. And, creates a local economic impact. Regional institutions should have powerful and stimulating relationships with community colleges to facilitate transfer, increase accessibility, reduce costs, and establish links with world-class research universities. For example, West Texas A&M University has a vibrant working relationship and affiliation agreements with Amarillo College, Clarendon College, Frank Phillips College, and South Plains College to facilitate a strong and easy transfer relationship. In addition, pipelines for graduate study at Texas A&M University from West Texas A&M University are available.

High schools: Working relationships with secondary schools are evolving regionally. University leaders have a duty to directly engage high schools and build trust that encourages regional attendance at full regional universities. West Texas A&M University has made an effort to directly attract students from Panhandle and South Plains schools. Almost 30,000 letters have been sent to students acknowledging their high school results. School leaders and families appreciate the attention paid to their students

A captive system: Deep interdependence means that Texas higher education for the 21st century must be configured so that the success of one institution depends on the success of all institutions. Quality at each level is interrelated and linked to increase educational opportunities for all Texans.

Texas needs an education vision that values ​​contributions up and down the ladder. At the postsecondary level, institutional competition and the accompanying “mission creep” work to reduce the integration of various institutions towards the common goal of statewide service. Post-secondary institutions that strive to be everything for everyone is a wayward fancy whose goal is the thief. Booker’s students at Brownsville need a cohesive set of seamless opportunities that provide boots of success for every Texan. A powerful service mindset that recognizes needs at many levels of aspiration and potential, made possible in part by strong regional universities, elevates the aspirations of Texans and the future of our state.

Walter V. Wendler is president of West Texas A&M University. His thoughts are available at http://walterwendler.com/.


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