“Midwestern State University” may cease to exist if left to people who want it to join a state university system.
Currently four institutions, including Midwestern, remain as freestanding institutions with their own individual board of regents.
There are now four primary university systems in the state: the University of Texas system, the Texas A&M system, the University of Houston system and the Texas State University system.
Texas Tech University and the University of North Texas also has two additional smaller systems.
The Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Texas State systems have expressed interest in MSU joining their associations.
MSU President Dr. Jesse Rogers said the likelihood of MSU finally joining a university system is higher than it has ever been before.
“Considering how large the system has gotten and considering that we are one of the four schools that are outside of the system, nothing more than tidiness of universities make some people think we should be in a system.”
Rogers said the change would be a lengthy process that involves alumni and faculty, but the MSU Board of Regents would make the final decision. The final verdict would have to be taken by the Texas legislature by introducing a bill.
MSU has been a freestanding campus since 1961.
Depending on the system, the name Midwestern State University may be no more.
If MSU were to join the University of Texas system, Rogers said the name would definitely be changed to University of Texas – Wichita Falls.
“The name change may seem small, but it would be extremely important because we have worked very hard to get Midwestern State’s name known,” Rogers said. “I would certainly hate to go through that and I wouldn’t want to see it changed.”
Texas A&M and the University of Texas would hand Midwestern a new campus policy.
In the other systems, they allow universities much more latitudes in setting their own policies, Rogers said.
Rogers called the Texas State University system a looser association than the University of Texas system because each school is more independent.
Over time, the push for MSU to go into a system will continue to increase, he noted.
A discussion of putting Midwestern in a system has been going on for the last 30 years.
Senior institutions united with other colleges for various reasons, including assisting smaller universities who were suffering financially.
“Midwestern has never fallen into any of those categories,” Rogers said. “Every time we look into it or we hear that action is being taken out there, we find out that there is not really anyone in the legislature who has any interest in doing this.”
He said few individuals are pushing this. Rogers has spoken to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and this matter is not high on the board’s priority list, he said.
“I think our board would look to me to help them do analysis on picking a system that would best fit our needs and would do the most for us,” Rogers said.
No one in government is pressuring Midwestern to join a system, Rogers said.
“I don’t believe our board of regents at this time happen to be very keen on moving into a system,” he said. “The truth is I have an open mind. As soon as I am convinced that being in a system would be an advantage of Midwestern State University I would talk to our board about doing so.”
When Rogers was vice president of academic affairs under former President Dr. Louis Rodriquez, he said they both felt there were no significant advantages to being in a system that would outweigh the disadvantages.
“With our own board, which meets four times a year, we can move quickly,” Rogers said. “In a system, it might take us two years to get something done like adding a sports team or change admission policies.”
The one positive aspect of Midwestern being in a system is that the university would have more political clout in Austin.
“As it is, we are in an isolated part of Texas,” Rogers said. “We have one senator and one representative. UNT or Texas Woman’s University will have numerous senators and representatives that are responsible for the schools in their area. They would have more political support than we would here.”
MSU gets its backing by keeping the university in good standings, keeping affairs straight and being a good university, he said.
“The reality is there are times that the state hands out very large pieces of money to build, a library for example. We need a new library that is going to cost $40 million,” Rogers said. “We need all the political pull we can get.”
He thinks the state is more likely to give those handouts to colleges under a university system.
“But we weigh that against the fact that we are doing a $25-$30 million building program right now by raising our own money locally and we do pretty well without it,” Rogers said.
Some of MSU’s donors have expressed lack of interest in the university being in a system because they want to know their donations stay right here at Midwestern, he said.
“The feeling is that this university belongs to the donors and it’s their university and we like that,” Rogers said. “They are not enthusiastic about giving money to a university that is just a piece of an association.”
Rogers said the change would affect him the most.
If MSU were to be under a system umbrella, the way professors teach would not be altered when it comes to textbooks required and syllabi.
Rogers agrees with critics who speculate that the freestanding campuses are becoming “dinosaurs” in Texas.
“I hate to call us a dinosaur, but we really are because most states have gone to systems,” he said. “Many states have mandated that every school be in a system because they feel that it is more orderly.”
If there is a push from anywhere to join a university system, it is because the trend has been out there for the last 20 years, Rogers said.
Rogers has spoken with university presidents who are apart of systems and said he has not heard any complaints. He admitted he has heard negative comments from faculty members who are under a system.
With regards to federal funding, Midwestern would get no extra credit hour funding and would still be funded by the number of credit hours the school produces.
Midwestern would actually have to pay the system office to be a part of its organization, he said.
“The funding would come in through administrative support that we could get from having more senators and representatives out there supporting the whole system,” he said. “As far as operational support is considered, the system wouldn’t give us anything.”
Rogers said it has more to do with why other schools are in a system than why MSU is still a freestanding university.