The preliminary budget submitted to the Texas Legislature calls for a 2% reduction in funding for higher education, The Daily Texan reports. Both houses of the legislature are currently considering budgets for the two years 2014-2015.
The House of Representatives is considering a proposal that allocates $14.8 billion for the state's higher education system, while the proposal currently in front of the Senate calls for $14.9 billion in funding. At the moment, the funding level for the state's public colleges and universities is $15.1 billion.
State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee and member of the Senate Finance Committee, said the proposals do not indicate what the final budget passed toward the end of the session will be but, rather, serve as a starting point for budgetary discussions. He said the Finance Committee will examine proposed higher education funds along with the rest of the budget when it begins meeting later this month.
The proposal budget typically undergoes substantial revisions prior to being finalized. As Seliger points out, the proposal is considered a starting point of conversation.
Selig's assertion is further bolstered by the negotiating process over the previous budget. The initial proposal called for only $13.6 billion in higher education funding. That number that was revised upwards in the final bill.
Seliger said he is interested in examining funds for the TEXAS Grant Program, a program that supplies grants to college students with financial need. Funds for the program remain unchanged from the levels approved by the Legislature during the previous session. The House and Senate proposals allocate $325.2 million to the program for fiscal year 2014 and $234.4 million for fiscal year 2015. The Legislature previously allocated $352.2 million to the program for fiscal year 2012 and $234.4 million for fiscal year 2013.
Analysis by the Center for Public Policy Priorities shows a downward trend in state financial support for higher education, which has lately also combined with pressure to keep tuition levels low. In addition, there have also been an increased push to tie a proportion of the funding to student achievement metrics. Baylor explained that lawmakers are seeking to lower their investment at the same time as seeking to have more of a voice in policy decisions.
Thomas Lindsey, the director of the Center for Higher Education at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, points out that the lowered funding is just a consequence of falling state revenues. All sectors are being forced to do with less public funding, adding that higher education should not expect different treatment.