ESPN deal may affect next year’s UT budget

AddThis

82nd Legislature

President William Powers Jr. testified to the Texas House Higher Education Committee about the UT-ESPN network that is expected to bring $300 million in additional revenue for UT over the next 20 years. The committee commended Powers’ investment for bringing additional funding to the University during legislative budget cuts.

UT faces $100 million in House- and Senate-proposed state funding cuts for the 2012-13 biennium, Powers said in a press release. At the meeting, Powers expressed concerns that UT’s budget may be disproportionately cut because of this additional funding for the University.

“It would be odd if a success like this were penalized,” Powers said. “One would think that you would want to encourage this kind of behavior. We’re the most concerned about budget issues.”

UT receives only 14 percent of its funding from the state. Powers said the TV network is one source of non-tax revenue it will add to its budget. The network is a partnership between UT and ESPN to cover University athletic, cultural and academic events. Powers said the ESPN branch is likely to be located in the College of Communication and offer internship opportunities for students.

“Our biggest asset is protecting the value of teaching and research,” he said. “We hire faculty members, and they’re the ones that bring in [additional] funding.”

The proposed cuts have already had an effect on the University. Powers said other universities have started cherry-picking faculty from UT.

“We are getting a lot of pressure,” Powers said. “The perceptions around the country are changing. People will wait to see how the budget comes out and how we are able to react.”

Powers said UT will address University budget cuts after reviewing the effectiveness of individual departments and will not mandate sweeping reductions.

“On our campus, we will not make across-the-board cuts,” he said. “We will do it looking at our most productive programs, assets, faculty and student success.”

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said the proposed budget can change if Powers and other University leaders voice their concerns to Gov. Rick Perry.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Castro said. “UT doesn’t have to lose several million dollars in funding. It’s not a matter of fate, it’s a matter of political choice, and I hope some folks at UT and the Board of Regents speak up to the governor.”

At the meeting, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board commissioner Raymund Paredes presented amendments to its “Closing the Gaps” program to facilitate enrollment in higher education. Over the last two years, Paredes said the program has helped increase enrollment of public universities by 557,550 students.

“We are on track to achieve our participation goals,” Paredes said. “Our goal is now to enroll 630,000 more students.”

The coordinating board also proposed restructuring state higher education funding.

Powers will testify before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday and will ask senators to avoid disproportionate cuts to public higher education, support the Texas Competitive Knowledge Fund and create a tuition revenue bond for UT’s Engineering and Education and Research Center, according to an e-mail from Powers on Wednesday.