EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) In her first address to The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) community since leaving her role as Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, new UTEP President Heather Wilson laid out the remarkable path that lies ahead for the campus and the efforts it will undergo to keep the cost of a college degree affordable, including a plan to offer low-cost or no-cost textbook options, and advocate for continued public support for higher education.
“UTEP provides excellent education at one of the most reasonable prices for a top tier university in America. We will continue to do everything we can to control costs and keep college affordable for families,” Wilson said.
Dr. Wilson said 45 faculty members stepped forward to work with IT and library staff to shift UTEP courses to low cost or no cost textbooks, particularly for core courses for freshmen and sophomores.
“We will focus our early efforts on the large freshman and sophomore courses like Physics, where the textbook costs over $300. $300 is a week’s work for a student making a bit more than minimum wage,” Wilson said.
President Wilson delivered her remarks Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2019, to a large crowd of UTEP faculty, staff and students as well as community stakeholders gathered at the campus’ Fox Fine Arts Center Recital Hall.
President Wilson’s address came a little more than a month after entering UTEP’s highest leadership role. She assumed office Aug. 15, three months after completing her service as Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, a position to which she was appointed in 2017.
Her arrival at UTEP comes on the heels of a period of 21 consecutive years of growth in enrollment.
President Wilson was clear in her assessment of where the campus must now shift its sights after years of accomplishments.
“The regions of the world that educate people will thrive in the 21st century. Those that don’t will be left behind,” President Wilson said. “What was good enough for our parents and our grandparents is not good enough for our children and our grandchildren. UTEP must take its place as a national leader, a 21st century university.”
On Tuesday, President Wilson lauded the University’s recent significant feats, which, in addition to the R1 top tier designation, include $91 million in research expenditures capped by a recent $19.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for UTEP’s Border Biomedical Research Center; seeing nearly half of the campus’ science-focused students maintain a GPA of 3.5 or higher; and the school-record recognition of 160 UTEP student-athletes by the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll, among many other accolades.
Wilson pointed to several tenets that the University will abide by in the years ahead to continue those trends. They include:
• Working with the Texas Legislature and other groups to garner more support for higher education.
• Keeping the price of a UTEP degree a cost-effective endeavor through efforts such as a recent collaboration by 45 faculty members to offer low- or no-cost textbooks.
• A campus pledge to be an inclusive environment for students of all backgrounds and foster their success.
• A commitment to becoming a leader among 21st century universities and serving the unique student demographic that resides throughout the Paso del Norte region.
Wilson said knowledge isn’t merely transmitted at UTEP, it is created. The notion of engaged scholarship – the scholarship of place – defined the campus from its outset, and continues to drive it today.
“UTEP is a comprehensive public research university that is increasing access to excellent higher education,” President Wilson said. “We advance discovery of public value and positively impact the health, culture, education and economy of the community we serve. We are a 21st century university. No school will be prayed for or worked for with greater dedication. I am honored to be a part of it.”