UT, A&M meet at the Capitol to discuss higher ed funding

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UT and Texas A&M set aside a long-standing rivalry and worked together on the seventh Orange & Maroon Legislative Day to advocate for the schools’ common legislative priorities, such as state funding for research.

UT and A&M students and alumni met with state legislators at the Capitol on Wednesday to discuss education and research needs. The institutions’ priorities are restoring state higher education budget cuts, building research centers and supporting tier-one research. A constant theme throughout the discussions was stabilizing, or possibly decreasing, tuition costs without compromising current research and education standard. 

Student Government President Kori Rady attended the event and said he was glad to be working with A&M students to set goals for the 84th legislative session.

“I think we are all in tune with what is really important, which is getting our education at our institutions and others in higher ed funded at the right level and the level that keeps them at their high standing and competitive — not only in Texas but nationally,” Rady said.

Mark Hussey, interim president of Texas A&M, said funding for higher education has a large effect on the state. 

“Texas A&M and the University of Texas make a difference in our state, and any help the state can provide to enhance our impact will be greatly appreciated,” Hussey said. 

According to President William Powers Jr. at a press conference for Orange & Maroon Legislative Day, the funding should be restored in order to continue the universities’ research. Powers said the funding would be beneficial to the state because every dollar of state money spent on UT or A&M results in $18 back in the Texas economy.

“[Research] has a tremendous impact on the Texas economy,” Powers said. “Texas A&M and the University of Texas combined attract $1.5 billion in research each year and put that back in the Texas economy.”

Since 2009, funding from the state for daily operations, such as building maintenance, teacher salaries and funding for classes, has
been decreasing.

In 2009, the University received $62.19 per semester credit hour from state funding, compared to this year’s $54.86.

At the press conference, Sen. Zaffirini (D-Laredo) said she believes the key to more affordable higher education for students is adequate state funding.  

“I get so sick and tired, quite frankly, about people who complain that higher education costs are too high,” Zaffirini said. “Why are they too high? Because they are not funded appropriately. There is a direct relationship between the level of state appropriations and the level of tuition.”

Powers said Texas A&M and UT have lower tuition costs than many universities nationwide. He said UT works to maintain low tuition costs and that it was important to keep tuition low while still maintaining a high-quality education. 

“We work very hard on efficiency, and we work very hard on affordability,” Powers said. 

Powers said tuition costs can be lowered by innovative course curriculum and four-year graduation rates.

“One of the best ways to bring the cost down is students graduating on time,” Powers said. “We are constantly trying to and effectively bringing the cost structure down.”