My fellow Texas Longhorns,
Every fall, my thoughts always turn to the Forty Acres and the thousands of students who will start filling up the classrooms and gathering around 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 McCombs School of Business and then as a student in the School of Law, 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 lucky to be attending one of the best universities in the world and living in one of the finest cities. I want you to know that in Washington, I am working to ensure we continue to invest in higher education, and I will continue to speak out against any budget, federal or otherwise, that balances itself on the backs of our students.
Investing in higher education is investing in our competitiveness. Cutting the amount of students who would be eligible for student financial aid almost in half, closing community colleges, eliminating the funds that Texas devotes to training Teach for America recruits and cutting state support for university research that makes the next generation of American discoveries possible is not only shortsighted, it is dangerous to our economic well-being. We are in competition with the Germans, the Chinese and the rest of the world. How can we compete and have a qualified workforce with the use of decade-old science textbooks, elimination of AP courses, closure of neighborhood schools and layoffs of hundreds of school personnel? With increased global competition, we should be strengthening our commitment — from pre-K to post-grad — to ensuring we have the world’s most able workforce.
As college costs rise, access to student aid becomes even more critical to a student’s ability to pursue higher education. Though much work remains to be done to increase accessibility and affordability of higher education in our community, we have made strides in the right direction over the last two years. With my support, Congress simplified our nation’s student loan system and made one of the largest investments in college aid in our history. Especially with the economy still fragile, we cannot afford to decrease our investment in education.
In the State of the Union, the President called on Congress to make permanent the “More Education” tax cut, also known as the American Opportunity Tax Credit, that I authored to help those seeking higher education. Again this year with this tax cut, most UT students or their families are eligible for a credit of up to $2,500 for what they have spent on tuition and instructional materials. I appreciated the President’s call out regarding my work on this during his speech at Gregory Gym last August. Hopefully, Republicans will work with us to make this tax cut permanent. It is true that what starts here changes the world, and maintaining a strong investment in education ensures that our students can receive all the education for which they are willing to work.
Please know that I am here to work constructively on matters of importance to the UT community. From tax relief for teaching assistants to improving student financial assistance, I serve as an advocate for the concerns of students, faculty and staff. Both my district office in Austin and my congressional office in Washington provide year-round internship opportunities for students who have an interest in government and want to learn about the inner workings of a congressional office. Internships should be coordinated through the office in which you wish to work. It is a great source of pride that many of my permanent staff are UT graduates.
Regardless of your career plans, government affects you. I hope that as a student, you will choose to get involved with government and public service in your community. There are a wide range of community service opportunities and philosophically diverse political organizations, both on campus and in the community, with which you can get involved.
I hope you will also take a moment to visit my website at doggett.house.gov, like me on Facebook by visiting facebook.com/LloydDoggett or follow me on Twitter: @RepLloydDoggett. My Austin office can be reached at (512) 916-5921 and my Washington office phone number is (202) 225-4865. My staff in both cities are ready to assist you.
Have a safe, productive and memorable year here at the University of Texas! Hook ’em, Horns!
Printed on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 as: Government affects students.
Doggett, a UT alumnus, is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.