Daily Texan, February 26, 1999With nine academic universities and six health institutions, the University of Texas System oversees the needs and problems -- including fund allocation and enrollment management -- of its 15 components. As if that isn't enough, the UT System is also responsible for catering to the scholastic needs of 145,604 students.
But maintaining the demands of 15 component institutions is a task the UT Board of Regents takes on every day. Former UT Regent Lowell Lebermann said managing the UT System takes strong organization and leadership. "It's like managing a huge government or corporation, where you have 68,000 faculty and staff and 140,000 students," Lebermann said. "Management and economics play big roles in keeping everything running smoothly."
Even with UT-Austin as the flagship institution, the Board of Regents keeps close tabs on the activities and problems faced by the other components. Lebermann said that each institution's president reports to the regents at their four meetings every year, so communication lines are always open. He added each regents' meeting is at a different UT campus so the regents get a good feeling of what issues each school faces. "We're on their campuses looking at new buildings, meeting faculty, staff and students, and interacting," Lebermann said. "So we have a sense of everything that's going on."
But the 15 components have different needs from the regents. While UT-Austin is grappling with limiting enrollment and housing all incoming freshmen, other schools are worried about bolstering their enrollment. "Each campus has its own set of issues," said Monty Jones, director of news and public information for the UT System. "For example, at UT-Austin, there's enrollment issues. Other campuses are looking to grow so they don't face that problem. A lot of our components draw students from particular regions, such as UT-Brownsville, while UT-Austin draws statewide."
UT-Dallas is one component looking to increase enrollment. Mary Sias, UT-Dallas vice president for student affairs and external relations, said a recruitment effort yielded a 6 percent increase in their student body this year. "We are particularly concerned with transfer recruitment and ensuring we are adequately recruiting minority students," Sias said. Sias said UT-Dallas would like to increase enrollment from 9,560 students to 15,000 within the next few years. She also said UT-Dallas attracts many more non-traditional students than the University, with a larger number of students enrolled in night classes to complete a degree.
Sias said her school keeps in close contact with the system since UT Regent Rita Clements and former Regent Thomas Hicks live in the Dallas area. Other components with different missions than UT-Austin find the UT System helpful in addressing problems they face.
Roy Bode, vice president of public affairs at the UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, said health and academic institutions share some similar issues. "Some of the information might be similar having to do with the expenditure and accreditation standards that are common to all components of the system," Bode said. "Certainly, we have a great need for resources and support of the regents for all of the programs. That's no different from other components of the UT system." But he added a medical school caters to a different student dynamic. "We're primarily a graduate institution and we don't have the needs of student recruitment as other undergraduate institutions might," Bode said.
While all UT campuses face diverse issues, Lebermann stressed that replacing top administrators in each institution ranks among the regents' most important tasks. "In the last five or six years, we have replaced six presidents," Lebermann said. "With everything we do as regents, the most important thing we do is choose leaders for academic institutions."
Determining budget needs is among other responsibilities of the regents, with each institution requiring different amounts of funding. "A mosaic would be implied with 15 campuses, all different missions, projects and programs. Some are more involved in research and some aren't involved in research at all," Lebermann said. "Each campus has extremely varied budgets. It's a solid, thoughtful professional system in the way money is distributed."
The UT System holds the second-largest endowment in the nation, totaling $12 billion dollars. Of that amount the Permanent University Fund (PUF) -- the revenue generated from stock market and oil investments to financially support Texas public universities -- makes up $7.1 billion, Jones said.
He added the UT System receives about two-thirds of the PUF. The money from the PUF is generally used by UT schools to fund new construction, make equipment purchases and provide academic enhancement funds to the University. "After construction projects are paid for, UT-Austin gets what's left," Jones said. "It's about $70 million a year for academic enhancement programs."
UT-Austin President Larry Faulkner said some of the money is allocated to help fledgling new programs that need financial assistance. "One thing that's peculiar about UT is that the budget is very source-driven," Faulkner said. "Where the dollars come from depends on what the money can be used for." Despite the number of tasks the regents face managing 15 institutions, dedication to great educations is key for students' success, Lebermann said.
"We want the students to have the best education and opportunities attending a UT school," he said.