Preston’s Political Point: University of Houston Should Invest Finances Less on Matthew McConaughey, More on Scholarships


Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times/TNS

The A-list actor and wife Camila Alves arrive at the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards show on Sunday, Jan. 11. He will receive $135,000 for delivering the commencement address at the university’s Spring 2015 graduation.

The University of Houston is paying Matthew McConaughey $135,000 plus travel expenses next month for the Spring 2015 graduation commencement speech.

According to the Texas Tribune, UH was reluctant to disclose the amount they were paying McConaughey for his speech, but after releasing the information, said the actor will donate his fee to a charity.

First and foremost, McConaughey has no real ties to the University of Houston. He was born in Uvalde, Texas, attended the University of Texas at Austin, his mother is from New Jersey, and his father, Mississippi.

The idea that it was necessary to book an Academy Award-winning actor, who doesn’t actually have a connection with UH (other than possibly some athletic rivalry from the old days of the Southwest Conference), is ridiculous, and the fact that they were willing to pay such a high price tag is outrageous.

Not only is UH spending an insane amount of money for a commencement speaker, earlier this year students called for the resignation of Carl Carlucci, a key aide and top administrator for President and Chancellor, Renu Khator. According to the Houston Chronicle, this came after allegations that Carlucci refused to appear before a committee tasked with monitoring how student fees are used each year.

University of Houston students should begin to ask questions about the fees they pay when they receive their tuition bills. Tier 1 status will only carry a university so far before students start wondering why they’re paying more in tuition for a school that has a 16 percent graduation rate for four-year completion, according to U.S. News, than students at University of Texas which boasts a 51 percent four-year graduation rate.

Though UH claims McConaughey will donate the money he profits, the charity he plans to give the money to is a charity he founded, and for which he currently serves as Chief Executive Officer. According to the Texas Tribune, the A-lister will donate his earnings to his Just Keep Livin’ foundation.

Rather than donating the money to his own foundation, McConaughey should give the money right back to UH, which Renu Khator could in turn apply toward more scholarship money for students who are trying to attend the university but cannot afford it without help.

Better yet, the University of Houston could avoid booking such expensive speakers altogether, and invite someone who has a connection with the university, and who may speak at a less expensive rate.

The University has already come under intense fire this year for management of the institution’s finances. The administration should take a really close look at itself and realize; it is spending students’ money on things that are not necessary.

They are forgetting for whom they work. They don’t work for Renu Khator. They work for the students who attend UH. Without students, the University of Houston will exist no more.