Report: UT, A&M stack up to peers
Schools need to bolster grad rate, enrollment of African-americans. Christmas Bureau must disable website, stop all business dealings.
Undergraduate education at the University of Texas and Texas A&M University generally compares favorably with that at other public research universities, but the state’s two flagships need to improve their four-year graduation rates and do a better job of recruiting and graduating African-American students.
Those conclusions emerge from a 104-page study commissioned by the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, a group of civic, business, philanthropic and higher education leaders.
The coalition formed last year to defend UT and A&M against critics, including some with close ties to Gov. Rick Perry, who contend that good teaching is underemphasized, that too many faculty members are unproductive and that much university-based research lacks value.
The timing of the report — it is being widely released Thursday — is no coincidence.
The Texas Legislature convenes next month for its everyother-year regular session, and higher education funding, tuition rates, construction projects, graduation rates and other matters will all be debated. The coalition hopes that the report will help lawmakers understand the important role of the state’s two public flagships, said Jenifer Sarver, a spokeswoman for the group.
A Travis County judge Wednesday ordered a local nonprofit that has helped provide Christmas gifts to needy families and is the target of an investigation to immediately close.
Probate Judge Guy Herman, acting on a lawsuit filed by the Texas Attorney General’s Office, said in a ruling that the Christmas Bureau of Austin and Travis County must disable its website and PayPal account and stop any other business dealings.
“Because we had serious concerns about this organization and its leadership, we moved quickly to cut off access to money that was donated by well-intentioned Texans,” said Jerry Strickland, spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
The lawsuit against the organization, filed Wednesday, names Christmas Bureau President Shon Washington and several former officials of the nonprofit. They are accused of illegally soliciting charitable donations and misappropriating those funds.
The move comes after Austin police officials last week announced a criminal investigation into the Christmas Bureau, which has helped the Police Department’s Operation Blue Santa program collect toys for 25 years.
“Investigators discovered that the bank accounts of the See more photos from Operation Blue Santa with this story at
SChristmas Bureau have been depleted and that the group has no remaining funds to support its charitable mission,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement.
Court documents also indicated that the Christmas Bureau in Austin is not open in the middle of the holiday season and that its doors on Burleson Road in South Austin are locked, the statement said.
Under a long-standing partnership with the Christmas Bureau, Blue Santa provided gifts to families with two or more children, while the bureau served smaller families, families with single parents and elderly people.
The Christmas Bureau had been responsible for printing all applications for the Blue Santa program, and officials said they became suspicious
The Blue Santa program hopes to give gifts to 15,000 needy children on Dec. 15.