February 14, 2011
Contact: Peter Clark, Peter.Clark@house.state.tx.us, 512-463-0532 (o), 512-417-9262 (c)
State Representative Mike Villarreal
Texas House of Representatives
Republican Budget Proposal Could Raise Tuition Over $1,000 Per Year
Governor's Call for Lower Tuition Shows He is in Denial
Austin - Today State Representative Mike Villarreal released data he received from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board showing that college tuition could rise by over $1,000 per year if the Republican state budget proposal is passed. The data demonstrate that Governor Rick Perry's recent call for making college more affordable, including a four-year degree that costs $2,500 per year, is in conflict with his own budget proposal.
"Making college affordable for hard-working students is the best economic development strategy we have, but the Governor's budget proposal takes us backwards, making college more expensive. Fulfilling our obligation to educate Texas children is our most solemn responsibility, but the Governor's budget proposal violates our obligation to schoolchildren," said Rep. Villarreal. "The Governor is in denial about the facts of his budget proposal. The first step towards fully funding education is for the Governor to accept that he helped created a fiscal crisis that threatens education today and into the future."
If all of the proposed reductions in state funding of universities are passed through as higher tuition, average annual tuition for a fulltime student taking 30 semester credit hours per year could increase by an estimated $1,023. If 75% of the cost of the budget cuts is passed through, average annual tuition could rise by an estimated $768, while a 50% pass-through could lead to an estimated $511 more in annual tuition, on average. The Coordinating Board provided the data following a request from Rep. Villarreal.
"Last week Governor Perry made a stop in Texas to tell us not to worry about his budget taking educational opportunities away for our children and ending key services for kids, the disabled and seniors. He offered proposals to close 1% of the budget gap and said we would be fine without using the Rainy Day Fund or fixing the permanent revenue shortfall. I'm trying to understand how this adds up, and I can only conclude he has a secret plan. If he has a secret plan, I'm waiting for him to share it."
Universities' ability to absorb the budget cuts without passing them on to students will be limited. Higher education accounted for approximately 40 percent of all the state budget cuts that were implemented in mid-2010. As a result, universities are already cutting their budgets. For example, over 100 tenured professors at Texas A&M University recently accepted buyouts, saving the university money but crowding more students into classes and reducing educational opportunities.
The potential increase is only one of the ways that the Governor's budget proposal would make college more expensive. The budget also eliminates state scholarships, including the highly successful TEXAS Grants program, for incoming students at community colleges and state universities.
"The state needs to decide if we are going to abandon our goal of graduating more students who can compete for good jobs, or if we are going to come up with the money needed to reach our goal," explained Rep. Villarreal "I want to reach that goal. The students, families and business leaders I talk to want to reach that goal. If the Republican proposal is to give up on that goal, then they need to say so."
Rep. Villarreal also noted that the potential tuition increase is one of many ways that the budget would lead to higher taxes and fees.
"The Governor's budget proposal supposedly doesn't raise taxes, but clearly it would push colleges to raise tuition and school districts, community colleges, hospital districts and others to raise property taxes. Rather than pretending our schools, hospitals and other institutions don't need money to operate, we should have an honest conversation about what we want to invest in and what is the most fair way to pay for it," said Rep. Villarreal.
Rep. Villarreal also urged Texans to speak up about the budget and the need to correct the structural revenue shortfall resulting from the state's 2006 tax swap.
"At some point Republican leaders are going to improve the budget a little bit, hoping that Texans will be relieved that the budget is merely devastating and not full-blown catastrophic," said Rep. Villarreal. "Texans need to be clear that we don't want just a few crumbs. We want a budget that fulfills our obligation to schoolchildren now and into the future, which will require eliminating the hole that Republicans put in our education funding system in 2006."
The Higher Education Coordinating Board's analysis is attached.