Turner answers Texas Tribune CEO
Evan Smith, The Texas Tribune’s editor-in-chief, co-founder and CEO, took the lunch hour of The Tribune’s day-long symposium Thursday at SMU to interview President R. Gerald Turner.
Smith addressed the high cost of attending SMU for one year, saying it generously equaled three years at the University of Texas at Austin or Texas A&M; University. He asked Turner to tell him why sending a student to SMU for around $58,000 a year would be worthwhile, given the cheaper education available in the state.
“Compared to the education they get at UT and A&M;, it’s a real bargain,” Turner said, followed by laughs from the audience.
Turner said he tells in-state students that the cost is worth it while to out-of-state students he stresses the value, because SMU is cheaper than other national private universities.
SMU’s endowment has nearly tripled to $1.3 billion in the past 15 years. Smith told Turner someone had described the president as a “prolific fundraiser.” Smith also noted the $99 million of financial aid is provided to students each year, more than 50 percent of which is generated by SMU fundraising.
Turner said that one of the best decisions he made in his 18 years as president was announcing the university’s goal to be a top 50 national university. While SMU is currently in the top quarter of national universities, Turner said that ranking was “not good enough.”
Smith discussed SMU’s admissions numbers, noting that while application and admittance numbers have increased, first-year and transfer class size has remained the same at around 1,100.
Turner replied that his goal is to get “better not bigger.” Turner said efforts are focused on expanding the SMU brand horizons and recruitment from coast to coast to earn a more national presence. Admissions numbers consistently count out-of-state students at around 700. In-state student counts also remain around 700. Turner said those numbers are also part of the plan to become a national university.
Smith also hosts “Overheard with Evan Smith” on PBS. The symposium hosted in the Mack Ballroom of the Umphrey Lee Center focused on Texas transportation and was part of the 2013 Texas Tribune Festival On The Road.