The 82nd Texas Legislature faces a dilemma that affects every Texan: balancing the biennial budget in the face of a deﬁcit estimated to be between $15 billion and $27 billion. The shortfall, as well as possible solutions, triggered a statewide dialogue about ﬁnancial priorities that will ultimately reveal the character
and values of our state.
We hope our legislators will recognize that money spent on higher education is an investment that pays dividends. The Perryman Group, a Texas-based economic and ﬁnancial analysis ﬁrm, estimates Texas generates $8 in revenue for every dollar invested in higher education. Moreover, in addition to educating skilled workers and state leaders, Texas institutions produce job-creating goods and services through university research and innovation.
As leaders appointed by the Governor to represent the best interests of our fellow students, we encourage our Texas legislators to continue investing in higher education because our state universities: (1) keep college students and graduates in Texas, (2) produce job-creating goods and services, and (3) enable Texas to remain competitive in the global economy.
Last year, when the state required a 5 percent reduction to balance the current biennial budget, almost half the cut came at the expense of higher education. Preliminary Senate and House budgets for 2012-13 reveal higher education could be targeted to absorb some of the deepest cuts again.
Not surprisingly, both last year’s cuts and this session’s proposed cuts to the higher education budget have caused many students, educators and state leaders to wonder if higher education remains a priority in Texas.
We sincerely hope higher education will be a legislative priority this session.In 2000, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board formulated a plan called “Closing the Gaps” designed to increase student participation, success, excellence and research by 2015. Although Texas made considerable strides toward many of these benchmarks, large educational achievement gaps remain.
More cuts to higher education will force our universities to raise tuition, signiﬁcantly limit course offerings, and substantially decrease enrollment. These changes will halt our future development and compromise progress we have already made.
If enacted in its current form, this budget will push college education beyond the reach of thousands of Texans, compromising the state’s ability to provide a skilled workforce and all together deterring college- bound students from seeking a higher education here. Moreover, it will erase the handsome rate of return the state can achieve when investing in higher education.
Ultimately, the beneﬁts of investing in higher education are signiﬁcant and widespread. States that invest in higher education are rewarded with higher standards of living, reduced crime rates, increased charitable giving, increased quality of life, and improved life expectancy. In order for Texas to remain a leader in a global economy, we must continue to invest in higher education – it is the key to the future success of our state. Protect our future.
This Op-Ed was written by ﬁve Student Regents across Texas:
Andrew Cobos – University of Houston System
Chris Covo – Texas State University System
Cresencio Davila – Texas A&M University System
Jeff Harris – Texas Tech University System
Kyle Kalkwarf – University of Texas System