Lt. Governor calls for cuts in aid to low-income students, university budgets

160906_education-cuts_squareLt. Governor Dan Patrick asked the Senate Higher Education Committee to meet last month to consider eliminating a program that provides aid to hundreds of thousands of needy and poor students in Texas—a growing number of whom are Hispanic.

“Tuition set-asides” funded financial aid to over 200,000 low-income students last year.  Wealthier students underwrite the program by contributing a portion of their tuition for grants and work study programs that assist students who can show need to pay for their college education.

Tuition set-asides were created to help finance public higher education in the wake of dramatic cuts in funding by the Texas legislature.  Raymond Paredes, the commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, predicted a significant blow to low-income Texas students—and especially students of color—if tuition set-asides were eliminated without a reinvestment of a third of a billion dollars from taxpayers into public higher education.

Lt. Governor Patrick also endorsed a so-called “performance-based tuition” bill by Sen. Kel Seliger, Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, which TSEU members fought hard to defeat in 2015.  Under this plan, for each year that a university failed to increase the number of undergraduate degrees awarded while decreasing administrative costs, tuition would be frozen. A university meeting these “performance metrics” will be allowed to increase tuition.

Texas institutions of higher education were established to provide quality, affordable education for Texas residents.  The legislature’s long divestment from public higher education has already forced dramatic increases in tuition that have put college out of reach for many Texans.  Dan Patrick’s call to eliminate financial aid for needy and poor Texans threatens to cut off access to college for more hundreds of thousands of Texas students.  The legislature’s massive cuts have also forced the elimination of thousands of university teaching and staff positions, threatening the quality of our state’s higher education.  His call to Texas colleges and universities to cut costs while cranking out more diplomas will stretch them even further.  Texans need and deserve quality, affordable university education. Texas can afford it – and our elected officials should fund it.

WHAT TO DO NOW To stop these attacks on public higher education in Texas, it is critical that we ask more of our coworkers to join the union and to get involved in COPE so that we can build our union’s political muscle. Contact your TSEU organizer to find out how you can get more involved! For more information about this issue, please call Missy Benavidez in the Valley TSEU office at 956-428-0251.