UT's endowment is a treasure for its students

Photo by Austin Price / The Texas Tribune

I'm not opposed to close scrutiny of spending at the University of Texas or elsewhere, but the way these numbers are used in this recent article on UT endowments in The Texas Tribune exaggerates the wealth of the University of Texas at Austin. Endowment size must be compared to the size of the student body. A more comprehensive analysis would also include the quality and complexity of the programs offered.

I was bothered by a "trickle for students", in the article which I consider demonstrably false. In round numbers, on an endowment per student at UT- Austin of $121,800, the recent income per student is $5,700 for 52,000 students. UT-Austin spends more than $50,000 per student. The curriculum includes more than 80 programs ranked in the top 20 nationally, many in the highest academic fields. My guess is that that represents more top 20 programs than all of the other universities in Texas combined.

Under the Texas Constitution, UT-Austin is required to be a "university of the first class" — putting it in the category of Princeton, Yale, Harvard and Stanford, which have endowments per student of $2.7 million: $2.1 million, $1.2 million and $1.2 million, respectfully. At a generous 5 percent annual payout, that produces $138,000 per student annually at Princeton, $104,000 per student at Yale, $61,000 at Harvard and $60,000 at Stanford.

All in all, UT-Austin is a "university of the first class," and the UT System does rather well considering its level of funding, its size and complexity and its many well-funded competitors.

Disclosure: Charles Miller and the University of Texas have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Charles Miller

Former chairman, University of Texas System Board of Regents