2015 Invest in Texas platform addresses tuition regulation, campus carry and textbook costs

Samantha Ketterer

The Senate of College Councils passed legislation Thursday in support of this year’s Invest in Texas platform, effectively finalizing the list of policy goals and setting the stage for the nonpartisan lobbying day next month.

Invest in Texas is a student-led, nonpartisan campaign sponsored by more than 20 student organizations, and student leaders will head to the Capitol to lobby on behalf of the student body on April 9.

Both Student Government and the Graduate Student Assembly approved the platform earlier in March.

Invest in Texas co-director John Brown, who authored the platform with co-director Taylor Guerrero, Senate president Geetika Jerath and SG president Kori Rady, said new leaders in the Texas legislature mean new lobbying challenges, too.

“It’s been a different year,” Brown said. “We’ve got our ammo, and we’re ready to go to war for higher ed.”

The platform is divided into six parts. Students will lobby for capital investment funding for the renovation of Welch Hall, for the continuation of in-state tuition for undocumented students of Texas residency and for provisions that allow for institutions to determine their own policies and guidelines on campus carry, a law which would allow people to carry concealed handguns on campus with a proper license.

“Campus carry has been a big one for me,” Rady said. “A lot of students have voiced their opinions on it, and it’s one that seems to be a hot topic in regards to the student body.”

All of the platform points focus on items that are currently being debated in the Texas Legislature. Students will also lobby in support of continued funding and matching of grants to help UT maintain its Tier One status as a research institution. Further platform points include opposition to tuition regulation and support for a tax holiday for college textbooks.  

“We definitely want [the platform] to be as inclusive as possible,” Jerath said. “We don’t want to make a certain platform that not all students will agree with.” 

Brown said University officials often push for certain policies without the support of students, making Invest in Texas even more important.

“Sometimes people tend to forget students,” Brown said. “Some of us do have educated opinions [and] read up on the issues. What we hope to do is remind the legislature … that UT students are down the road, that we can be noisy. We can help.”

Many students involved in the legislative student organizations will march to the Capitol, along with any other students who want to join. Longhorn Advocates, a group of 31 UT students, will also attend and be paired with 31 separate senators. Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond), the chair of higher education, will speak to students who attend.

The Invest in Texas team has been planning the day since last summer and will continue to advocate following the campaign. 

“We’ve been advocating all throughout, and we’ll be advocating after,” Rady said. “Our Invest in Texas day doesn’t mean the work is done.”