My fellow Texas Longhorns,
Welcome back to another exciting year at the University of Texas. Every fall, my thoughts always turn to the 40 Acres and the thousands of students who will start filling the classrooms and gathering in the West Mall. The University has been an important part of my life almost since birth. I grew up in the shadow of the Tower and earned my first real paycheck as a summer dishwasher and errand-runner for the botany department. Later, as an undergraduate in the School of Business and then as a law student, I met some of the finest people anywhere, including my wife Libby. I developed my interest in public policy at the University, where I served as Student Government president.
I will never forget my wonderful years at UT, and I hope your experience will be equally fulfilling. You are attending one of the best universities in the world and living in one of the finest cities anywhere.
I hope that, as a student, you will choose to become involved with government and public service. A wide range of community service opportunities are available, and philosophically diverse political organizations, both on campus and in the community, would be enriched by your involvement.
Congress has a responsibility to make sure that higher education is affordable and accessible. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which passed the House of Representatives with my strong support, saves $87 billion during the next decade, reinvests the savings in education and helps pay down the national debt. The legislation represents one of the largest single investments in higher education, with $40 billion more put into Pell Grants. During the next decade, college students in Texas will receive about $2.5 billion more in Pell Grants.
This success builds on my efforts to support higher-education achievement by simplifying the student aid process and providing tax benefits to those seeking a degree. Each year, an estimated 1.5 million students decline to seek the federal student financial assistance for which they are eligible because the form is too complicated. Congress passed an amendment I authored simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by reducing the number of questions on the form and clarifying its instructions. The Doggett Amendment also strengthens student privacy by eliminating the need for schools to stockpile sensitive financial information in order to verify the income information submitted on the FAFSA.
To support students obtaining a degree, I authored a tax cut of about $14 billion in the form of a “More Education” Tax Credit. For every dollar that you or your family spend on tuition and instructional materials this year, you will get a dollar credit up to $2,500 on your tax return.
I encourage students to get involved as interns in both my Austin and Washington, D.C. offices. Please visit my website at www.house.gov/doggett and click on “constituent services” where you can find helpful information about internship opportunities and student aid. Fill out a survey on federal issues, subscribe to receive legislative updates or send me an e-mail at Lloyd.Doggett@mail.house.gov.
Whether it’s at Project 2010, the exceptional day of community service UT students sponsor each spring, a Longhorn football game or Relay for Life in communities across Central Texas, I look forward to visiting with you. Listening to you is how your priorities can become mine in Washington. I stand ready to assist you in matters of a federal nature. Have a safe, productive and memorable year here at UT! Hook ‘em Horns!