Grand reductions a reality

Dominic M. Chavez

In response to “TEXAS Grants to possibly endure reductions and stricter requirements,”  which ran on Nov. 4, 2012.

Texas faces a financial aid challenge with no easy answers. The number of TEXAS Grant-eligible students has increased 88 percent over the last five years. Funding for the TEXAS Grant was reduced by 10 percent last legislative session. And Texas will need to invest $1.4 billion in the TEXAS Grant program to fund all eligible students over the next two years — almost three times current funding levels. Nobody finds our current dilemma acceptable — not the THECB, not UT-Austin administrators and especially not students and parents.  But it is the reality we face nonetheless.

The THECB’s responsibility is to identify statewide policy that best serves the greatest number of students at the greatest number of institutions.  Our TEXAS Grant proposal is firmly rooted in a shared responsibility model where the federal government, state government, institutions and students/parents have an important role to play. In fiscal year 2011, UT-Austin disbursed $38 million in grant aid generated by tuition revenue, $49 million in federal Pell grants and $33 million in TEXAS Grants. The THECB proposal will ask UT-Austin to continue creatively leveraging all these resources to cover total academic charges, including books, for the students with the greatest need.

Under the THECB’s proposal, we predict that on a statewide average basis we can meet charges for tuition, fees and books, for up to 95 percent of all eligible university students.  Without this proposal, even assuming the state accepts the THECB request for $127 million in additional funding, 7 in 10 financially needy university students will lack adequate resources to pay for college. Given these facts, the surest way to undermine our commitment to financially needy students is to do nothing.
We are committed to working with UT-Austin to secure more funding for the TEXAS Grant program.  But even under the most optimistic scenarios, it will not be enough, and the challenge only escalates every year that passes.

— Dominic M. Chavez
Senior Director
Office of External Relations
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board