Texas budget proposals would cut funds from higher education


Higher education institutions would face a 2 percent funding decrease during the 2014-15 biennium if the Texas Legislature passes preliminary budget proposals filed Tuesday. 

However, funding may change before the Legislature approves the final budget later in the session – as it has in the last few sessions.

The proposal filed by the Texas House of Representatives allocates $14.8 billion in state revenue to higher education from a proposed $187.7 billion budget while the Senate proposal allocates $14.9 billion to higher education of a proposed $186.8 billion budget. The current higher education budget 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. 

“We have to get to the starting point,” Seliger said. “We now have those numbers to start the conversation.”

In 2011, the House initially proposed allocating $13.6 billion to higher education for the 2012-13 biennium and the Senate proposed allocating $14.1 billion, according to proposals published in January 2011 on the Texas Legislative Budget Board’s website. The Legislature allocated $15.1 billion for that biennium. 

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. 

Don Baylor, a policy analyst who specializes in higher education at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, said state financial support for higher education is decreasing while the Legislature seeks to enact legislation guaranteeing students fixed tuition during four years and tying a percentage of state funding to student performance. 

“The irony is they want to have lower financial input but have greater policy input,” Baylor said.

Thomas Lindsay, director of the Center for Higher Education at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said the Legislature has shown an adequate funding commitment to higher education and that higher educational institutions must face cuts along with other areas of state government. 

“Everyone is having to learn to do more with less and higher education is no exception,” Lindsay said.