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Who wants a “first class” university?

The Constitution says we’re supposed to have one, but the budget says otherwise.

[The University of Texas] has been a member of the Association of American Universities, a group of leading research universities in the United States and Canada, since 1929. Numerous programs — including accounting, Latin American history, and chemical, petroleum and civil engineering — are standouts. Its research expenditures exceed $500 million a year, an economic boon for the region and state. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT 13th among public universities .

But UT has struggled in its years-long quest to plant itself among the very best public institutions of higher learning, which include the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina. Now, with a 5 percent budget cut imposed by state officials and double-digit reductions proposed on top of that, the question arises:

Is UT’s “first class” status in jeopardy?

“The answer is yes. It is being threatened,” UT President William Powers Jr. said in an interview. “Even in good times, even just at the margins, the opportunities to really soar are limited by a lack of funding.”

UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, who oversees the Austin flagship and 14 other academic and health campuses, put it this way: “It is an institution of the first class, but you can’t take it for granted.”

Certainly, Powers and Cigarroa have an interest in maximizing the issue. So too do the Republicans quoted in the story have an interest in minimizing it. No one is disputing that budget cuts will affect UT, and I don’t think anyone would argue that it will make it a better or more prestigious university. We just kinda hope it won’t be too bad. My opinion is that this is the same as with the public schools and all of the corners that will be cut to make the budget math work: We shouldn’t be surprised when we see tangible evidence of decline, and we damn well better remember who’s responsible for it.

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