Longhorns and the Lege

 

It’s time to gear up for the 2015 legislative session.

Every other year in Texas, our elected representatives gather in Austin to do the state’s business. January 13 marks the beginning of Texas’ 84th legislative session, and just as in the 83rd and 82nd sessions, higher education, and specifically the University of Texas at Austin, will be among the items our legislators will discuss and potentially address.

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As a former legislator myself, this process is as familiar to me as brushing my teeth. I know how it works, and I know what’s involved. I can tell you also from personal experience that what matters is having informed advocates who are present during the deliberations. The Texas Exes has been expanding and increasing our work in this area, and in this session I’m optimistic that we can really move the needle for the university.

The Association has identified several key legislative priorities for 2015. Two big-picture policy areas with long-range impact are:

  • Base Funding. This is the beginning of any conversation about higher education, because it is foundational to the way universities operate. Our state funds colleges and universities differently based on complicated formulas. In 2011, higher education suffered substantial cuts to the base-funding levels, only some of which were restored in 2013. Our priority in the 2015 session is to get the levels fully restored so that our universities (and UT-Austin in particular) can compete with the best universities in the country and stop the flight of talent out of the state. It is a surprise to most people that state funding is only 12 percent of UT-Austin’s budget.
  • Support for Tier-One Research and Innovation. The state wisely uses a series of innovative funds to support universities and faculty members to win external research grants. The more aggressively the state can match those funds, the more quality research grants will come to Texas, building excellence in faculty and added experience for students. We will encourage our elected representatives to be as aggressive as possible with these funds, so that Texas can continue to be a national leader in academic and applied research.

You will be hearing more about these and other issues as we get into the session. If you have not already signed up to be a UT Advocate, I invite you to do so here. Please also consider joining your fellow Texas Exes and our friends from Texas A&M for Orange & Maroon Legislative Day. It will be Wednesday, Feb. 4 in Austin, and you can find those details online as well.

There are a lot of new state representatives and senators this year, so it is more important than ever that Texas Exes are informed and present during the session. Advocating on the university’s behalf is a privilege and a responsibility that we all share. Don’t just stand by and watch; now is the time to get involved.

 

 

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