The Average Student

Rising workloads, rising costs pressuring UT students

The UT tower: So how's the view from up there?
The UT tower: So how's the view from up there? (Photo by Richard Whittaker)

Have students and administration at UT Austin ever been more disconnected? Management tried to steamroll major changes at the Texas Union under the guise of student-driven reforms: The regents just pushed through a 3.95% tuition increase: And the student government elections are a referendum on the old boy network. But what is student life really like?

– According to the Texas Higher Education Board, the average UT Austin student workload has increased from 12.09 credit hours per semester in 2002 to 13.33 in 2008.

– With the introduction of new requirements like the interdisciplinary Signature Courses, students have to do more to graduate. For example, last fall, the Cockrell School of Engineering increased the number of required credit hours for graduation from 129 to 132. This comes solely from the American tertiary education system's belief that undergraduates need to be generalists, not specialists. Universities are then left to back-fill the massive gaps left in the knowledge base by the high school curriculum. Having been a teaching assistant, I was regularly astonished and depressed by how many smart, dedicated, hard-working students lacked what should be considered basic general knowledge.

Classes and labs are already scheduled between 8am and 10pm, and the university is considering reducing the number of lecturers and adjuncts, replacing small classes with impersonal mass lectures.

A new plan to set a five year cap to graduate will further increase the pressure for some students, especially those paying their own way through college or those that change their major.

– For contrast, in most European systems, students sign up for specific degree programs and the average bachelor's degree takes three years. Similarly, it is almost unheard of for graduate students to have to take (and pay for) courses outside of their area of study.

The problem is that everyone knows that these are problems, but quality of education is suffering in the name of cost cutting. Student Government President Liam O’Rourke said, "Class sizes swell, availability goes down, students can’t take the courses needed to graduate on time because a lot of them are sequential, and it becomes a problem that snowballs."

This isn't solely the university administration's fault: The legislature should hang its head in shame for its chronic underfunding for and lack of direction provided to tertiary institutions. In a recent conversation with UT Vice-President Kevin Hegarty, he said he was concerned that everyone seemed to want to make changes to the university system (a little more research here, a few more core courses there) but he really struggled to find anyone that could tell him exactly what the core purpose of universities is anymore. Until that is defined, then reforms run the risk of being directionless, and just put more financial and work pressure on students.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More University of Texas
College Confessions From the Dorm's Snitch
College Confessions From the Dorm's Snitch
Accidentally hot-boxed, barfed on, a 24/7 buzz kill – RA life ain't easy

Katarina Brown, Aug. 23, 2017

Peter O'Toole Archives Land at HRC
Hello, Mr. Chips
Peter O'Toole archives acquired by UT's Harry Ransom Center

Marjorie Baumgarten, April 22, 2017

More Cactus Cafe
Longhorns on Grande, Cactus on Longhorns?
Longhorns on Grande, Cactus on Longhorns?
As Grande takes the Longhorn Network, KUT shoots a music pilot

Richard Whittaker, Sept. 3, 2011

I  Am the Exceptional Drought
I Am the Exceptional Drought
Ray Bonneville quenches ‘Bad Man's Blood’ at the Cactus Cafe

Jim Caligiuri, Aug. 3, 2011

More by Richard Whittaker
New Road Trip Drama Travels into <i>No Man's Land</i>
New Road Trip Drama Travels into No Man's Land
The filmmaking Allyn brothers see Mexico through a new lens

Jan. 22, 2021

Austin-made <i>Walker</i> Debuts Tonight
Austin-made Walker Debuts Tonight
Tune in to the CW as Jared Padalecki steps in Chuck Norris' boots

Jan. 21, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

University of Texas, Cactus Cafe, Informal Classes, Liam O'Rourke, Kevin Hegarty

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle