This spring, the Texas Public Policy Foundation testified in support of a higher education transparency bill by Representative Lois Kolkhorst, HB 2504.

HB 2504 passed both houses unanimously, and public universities in Texas are in the beginning stages of implementing the reforms that HB 2504 mandates, including posting the syllabus of each course, the faculty member’s curriculum vitae, and other information on the internet by next fall. The bill requires that this information be no more than three clicks away from the institution’s homepage.

David Koon at the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy notes that although “Texas is the first and only state to have such legislation… the law reflects a growing national concern with the lack of transparency in state universities.” He calls HB 2504 “a step in the direction of greater transparency.”

His article notes that most schools are having no problem complying with the law, but Valerie Paton, a vice provost of Texas Tech University, said the deadline poses a “significant challenge” to the university, citing cost concerns. Regardless, it seems most universities are complying.

The main controversy surrounding the bill, however, is the provision requiring universities to come up with a plan to post student course evaluations online. These evaluations have always been private, and as of right now they will remain that way. Still, it is clear the legislature may want to address the issue of making student evaluations public in the future.

Koon notes that “Texas is moving ahead of…the rest of the country by providing greater public access to the workings of higher education. Though the ivory tower remains shielded, Texas’ new syllabi law provides at least a small window on its inner happenings.

Other states should look to HB 2504 as an example of how to begin improving accountability standards at their public universities.

– Elizabeth Young