The University of Texas has dodged a chip shot: proposed legislation that would have forced it to preserve Lions Municipal Golf Course.
UT and the other 36 public universities in the state also avoided legislatively imposed limits on tuition. And a measure allowing some junior colleges — Austin Community College among them — to seek approval to offer bachelor’s degrees in a handful of workforce-oriented fields seems likely to pass.
Here’s a roundup of where various higher education measures stand as the legislative session approaches its conclusion next Monday:
Lions Municipal Golf Course: Senate Bill 822, which would have preserved the West Austin course known as Muny, passed the Senate but never emerged from a House committee. Similar legislation will be filed in 2019 if UT, which owns the land, and the city of Austin, which leases and operates the course, don’t work something out, said Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, and Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, the measure’s author and House sponsor, respectively.
Tuition limits: SB 19 would have imposed a two-year freeze on public university tuition, after which schools that met certain performance metrics could raise tuition by no more than inflation plus 1 percent. The measure passed the Senate but didn’t get out of the House Higher Education Committee.
Tuition set-asides: SB 18, approved by the Senate, would have repealed a 2003 law requiring public universities to set aside a portion of tuition for need-based financial aid. It died in the House Higher Education Committee.
Four-year degrees at two-year schools: SB 2118, pending in the Senate for consideration of minor changes by the House, would allow certain community colleges to seek approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to offer bachelor’s degrees in such fields as nursing, applied technology and applied science. ACC hopes to offer a bachelor’s in nursing to nurses who have already earned a two-year degree and passed the national licensing exam.
Campus sexual assault: SB 966, which has passed both chambers and been sent to Gov. Greg Abbott, would exempt a minor reporting a sexual assault against the minor or another person from prosecution for underage drinking. House Bill 16, pending in the Senate and expected to pass, would require public and private schools to do the following: adopt procedures for reporting allegations, including online and anonymous reporting; address the issue on the school’s website and in freshman orientation; provide amnesty for violating campus conduct codes, such as a ban on underage drinking, for student victims or witnesses who report allegations of sexual assault; develop a disciplinary process that grants the accused and the alleged victim equal access to relevant evidence; and train campus police in responding to allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence and stalking. SB 968 and SB 969 pretty much mirror a number of those provisions and are expected to receive final Senate approval after minor House changes.
Automatic admission: Currently, students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class can qualify for guaranteed admission to any of the state’s public universities — except for the Austin flagship, where state law allows the university to limit those automatically admitted to 75 percent of the freshman class. SB 2119, which would have scaled back automatic admission for all public universities in Texas to 30 percent of each school’s incoming freshmen, didn’t have enough votes to get to the Senate floor.
UT System easements: HB 1882 would have dramatically increased the power of electric utilities, pipeline companies, oil and natural gas operators, and other companies to challenge and potentially reduce fees that the system charges for easements on its vast West Texas lands. The measure never got out of a House committee.