FEATURED, FROM LEFT: In this image from 1997 taken on the floor of the Senate Chamber in the Texas Capitol, Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo/Starr County, poses with Edith Royal and her husband, legendary University of Texas Longhorns head coach Darrell Royal, during a rehearsal for her Governor for a Day Celebration. “I vividly recall him saying, ‘I know one thing for sure: her blood runs burnt orange.’ Indeed. Hook ‘em, Horns!” said Zaffirini, who has a Bachelor of Science (B.S), a Master’s of Arts (M.A.), and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) from the University of Texas at Austin.
Photograph Courtesy SEN. ZAFFIRINI FACEBOOK
Hispanic enrollment at UT-Austin reaches all-time high for Fall 2021 at 27.1%
With more students than ever graduating on time, The University of Texas at Austin has been able to expand capacity, admitting its largest-ever incoming class – including a one percent increase in the number of Hispanic students, according to the UT News, which is the public information arm of the public higher education campus.
According to UT News:
Graduation rates at UT have shown consistent improvement since 2011, when the university set a goal of increasing the four-year graduation rate from 52% to 70%.
Beginning in 2012-2013, the university implemented campus-wide student success programs and analyzed student data to provide proactive support for students to help them define and stick with a path toward graduation. The programs offer peer mentoring, academic support and scholarship access to help more incoming students succeed in college.
“By helping more students graduate on time, we are increasing access to UT,” said UT Austin President Jay Hartzell. “This is especially important now, because more outstanding students than ever are seeking the rigorous education, in-person learning and residential college experience that UT offers.”
Students and their families save money when students graduate on time. And moving students through the university more quickly frees up hundreds of additional seats a year for entering first-year students.
Total university enrollment rose 3% over last year from 50,476 to 51,992, which is close to the all-time high of 52,261 set in 2002.
Hispanic enrollment reached all-time highs for the Fall 2021 semester at the University of Texas at Austin, with the percentage of Hispanic undergraduates jumping a full percentage point, from 26.1% to 27.1%, even as overall university enrollment increased significantly.
UT-Austin offers a wide variety of undergraduate degrees, which span 13 colleges and schools and encompass more than 170 fields of study, more than 100 graduate fields of study, a law and medical degrees.
Last year, UT Austin reached the undergraduate enrollment threshold of 25% Hispanic to qualify as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). The university also received the prestigiousSeal of Excelencia, granted to a small group of colleges and universities committed to accelerating Latino student success.
This year’s enrollment gains further cement the university’s trajectory as one of the country’s largest and most academically prestigious HSIs.
Overall, the university’s number and percentage of historically underrepresented students — who identify as Black, Hispanic, American Indian or Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander — rose to their highest levels ever, representing 32.7% of the undergraduate population and 29.6% of the university as a whole.
At the undergraduate level alone, UT Austin will educate 13,366 historically underrepresented students in 2021, one of the largest totals of any state flagship university or member of the prestigious Association of American Universities.
“People all across the UT community have been working hard to recruit, attract, retain and support even more talented and diverse students, staff members, and faculty members who can change the world,” said Hartzell. “I’m proud that our combined enrollment of historically underrepresented groups has reached record levels for the second year in a row.”
The university is also serving more first-generation and historically underrepresented groups than ever while continuing to serve some of its highest numbers of students eligible for Pell grants, which are available to low-income families.
Enrollment of first-generation undergraduate students rose from 9,122 to 9,387, 22.9% of all undergraduates.
Numbers for international students also rose, from 4,173 (8.3% of all students) in 2020 to 4,725 (9.1% of all students) this year.
All 2021 figures in this release are as of the 12th class day and therefore preliminary. Some figures, such as graduation rates, may change slightly as further information on student status is finalized for federal and state reporting; final figures will be released in the statistical handbook, the definitive source of annual data on the university.
A summary of fall 2021 enrollment figures (all comparisons are year over year, from Fall 2020 to Fall 2021) follow:
• The overall percentage of Hispanic students rose from 23.4% to 24.2%, and the percentage of Hispanic undergraduates rose from 26.1% to 27.1%, record highs.
• The percentage of Asian undergraduates rose from 23.2% to 23.8%.
• The overall number of Black students (both undergraduate and graduate) rose from 2,660 to 2,728 while the percentage fell slightly from 5.3% to 5.2%.
• The size of the entering freshman class increased from 8,459 to 9,060, up 7.1%.
• The percentage of white undergraduates dropped from 37.3% to 35.1%.
• Applications for undergraduate admission rose 15.4% to a record of 66,077.
• The first-year retention rate fell slightly from last year’s record high of 96.7% to 96.4%.
• The number of first-generation college students increased from 9,122 to 9,387, while their percentage rose slightly from 22.8% to 22.9% of undergraduates.
• The four-year graduation rate for Pell-eligible students rose from 63.9% to a new high of 66.1%, further closing the gap with the graduation rate of non-Pell eligible students, which is 74.6%.
PLAN COAUTHORED BY SEN. HINOJOSA TO ALLOW JUDGES TO DENY BAIL FOR SERIOUS VIOLENT OFFENSES IS ADDED BY GOV. ABBOTT TO THIRD SPECIAL SESSION
Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday, September 22, 2021, submitted a message to the Secretary of the Senate identifying two additional agenda items for the Third Special Session that began Monday, September 20, 2021.
Additional agenda items for the Third Special Session include:
• Senate Joint Resolution 1, which proposes a constitutional amendment to further protect the safety of the community, law enforcement, and victims, from accused criminals who may be released on bail, including by giving magistrates the discretion to deny bail under some circumstances to people accused of certain violent, sexual, or trafficking offenses.
Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, is a co-author of Senate Joint Resolution 1.
A joint resolution is a type of legislative measure that requires adoption by both chambers of the legislature but does not require action by the governor. A joint resolution is used to propose amendments to the Texas Constitution, ratify amendments to the U.S. Constitution, or request a constitutional convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Before becoming effective, the provisions of joint resolutions proposing amendments to the Texas Constitution must be approved by the voters of Texas.
As co-author of Senate Joint Resolution 1, Hinojosa was authorized by the primary author of a bill – Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston – to join in the authorship of the measure.
• Senate Bill 1, which provides additional property-tax relief for Texans.
A bill is a type of legislative measure that requires passage by both chambers of the legislature and action by the governor in order to become effective. A bill is the primary means used to create and change the laws of the state.
“These two additional agenda items are crucial to improving the quality of life for all Texans,” said Abbott, a Republican. “I look forward to working with my partners in the Legislature to pass these additional items that will lower property taxes and keep Texans safe.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a fellow Republican, said the Senate already has moved forward on both measures.
Current law requires that anyone accused of a crime have bail set, but that’s a relic of the past, according to Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, Chair, Senate Committee on Criminal Justice.
“The guarantee of the bond was a result of the Texas Revolution where the settlers were being held indefinitely by the Mexican government,” he said. “Once Texans got the opportunity to write their own constitution in 1836 and again in 1876, they made certain that practice would never be repeated.”
In 2021, he said, with proper due process safeguards in place, it makes sense to allow judges to deny bail to the most dangerous violent offenders.
Bail is the amount of money defendants must post to be released from custody until their trial. Bail is not a fine. It is not supposed to be used as punishment. The purpose of bail is simply to ensure that defendants will appear for trial and all pretrial hearings for which they must be present. Bail is returned to defendants when their trial is over, in some states minus a processing fee.
The judge or magistrate decides the amount of bail by weighing many factors.
If approved by voters, Senate Joint Resolution 1 would allow judges to deny bail to those accused of certain violent crimes in cases where there is clear and convincing evidence that denial of bail is necessary to ensure the person’s appearance in court or if that person represents an ongoing threat to public safety, law enforcement, or alleged victims.
It also requires that judges use the “least restrictive means” to hold an individual, which Joan Huffman said will protect the rights of lesser offenders.
“This constitutional amendment actually protects both sides of the coin: those who should be held and those who we should not be holding and crowding the jails,” she said. “It’s a very fair and balanced approach to the issues that we see in our state.”
Earlier in the week, Huffman said the state got another tragic reminder of the need for this legislation.
Houston Police Department Senior Officer William “Bill” Jeffery was shot and killed while serving a narcotics warrant on Monday, September 20, 2021. Another officer, Sgt. Michael Vance was wounded in the incident.
“He was a career violent criminal who should not have been out on the street,” Huffman said of the alleged perpetrator. “This officer should not have been murdered. It should not have happened…by God, we should do something about this.
While the measure has cleared the Senate with overwhelming majorities four times this year, in the House, it has yet to reach the two-thirds supermajority threshold required for any measure that would propose a constitutional amendment. Last special session the measure missed that mark by just a few votes, failing 83 to 35. It now heads back to the House for another attempt.
Senate Bill 1 would use unspent state revenue to compress property tax rates for the 2022-2023 school year.
The amount of that compression will depend on how much is projected to remain in state coffers when the 2023 biennium ends that September.
The bill would reduce the total state property tax bill by at least $2 billion for one year, which Bettencourt said would translate to savings of around $190 for the median homeowner in Texas.
The total tax reduction could go as high as $4 billion if the comptroller says the state will have enough money in the bank when the fiscal year 2023 ends.
MEMBERS SOUGHT FOR PREPAREDNESS COORDINATING COUNCIL, WHICH HELPS PROMOTE EFFORTS TO IMPROVE PUBLIC HEALTH AND MEDICAL PREPAREDNESS
Texans interested in issues related to preparedness, training, planning, communications and emergency response to public health and medical emergencies may apply to be a member of the Preparedness Coordinating Council.
Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, October 8, 2021.
The multidisciplinary Preparedness Coordinating Council (PCC) advises and assists the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) on topics related to state and regional preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation activities as they pertain to the Emergency Support Function (ESF)-8 (Public Health and Medical). The PCC assists DSHS by providing strategic guidance to promote consensus and coordination of state and local efforts and improving public health and medical preparedness.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission executive commissioner will appoint members to the council to serve a term expiring Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, unless otherwise noted.
HHSC and DSHS will consider applicants’ qualifications, background, and interest in serving on the council and will try to choose council members who represent the diversity of all Texans. For this reason, HHSC and DSHS considers applicants’ ethnicity, gender, and geographic location.
Prospective applicants may review the linked application letter to find out who the council is seeking as representatives and if they qualify.
After reviewing the application letter, and verifying an individual meets the qualifications for at least one category, click on the application linked here to apply to be on the council.
It is preferred that individuals submit their application electronically, but they may submit the application by email, mail or fax. Here are the addresses:
Mail: Texas Health and Human Services Commission 4900 N. Lamar Blvd. Mail Code 0223 Austin, TX 78751 Attn: Susanna Sparkman
Fax: 512-206-3984 Attn: PCC
A Preparedness Coordinating Council member must regularly participate in council meetings. They may also have to participate in subcommittee meetings, projects, and presentations. Council meetings are held about once every three to four months in Austin or at the call of the presiding officer. To the extent permitted by the current state budget, a council member may be repaid for their travel expenses to and from meetings if money is available and in accordance with the HHSC Travel Policy.
For more information about the council contact Sandra Nava.
For more information about the application process, contact Susanna Sparkman.
Texas Senate News contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).