House Chair Calls for Expanded Investment in Higher Ed

As the 83rd Texas Legislature begins, key lawmakers are making it clear that higher education is an investment worth expanding—and they just might be able to do it.

As Texas legislators convene in Austin this week to start the 2013 session, one prominent lawmaker has voiced his belief in the investment of university education.

Rep. Dan Branch (R-Dallas) told the San Antonio Express-News Monday that his fellow lawmakers should take a “serious look” at expanding the state’s investment in higher education. Read the excerpt below.

…the chairmen of the House and Senate higher-education committees are hopeful that legislators will approve additional money for higher education this session.

“We need to take a serious look at expanding our investment,” said Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, adding that higher-education investments typically draw returns many times over. “We need to keep up with student growth. … We also need to make sure that we have the tools and equipment in place for our students.”

Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), BS ’67, MA ’70, PhD ’78, Life Member, has continually championed higher education—and UT in particular—in the Legislature. She noted that while enrollment has increased at state universities, declining state appropriations have driven tuition prices up.

“Many of us are so concerned about the affordability of higher education today, but the fact of the matter is the level of appropriations is directly related to the level of tuition,” she told the Express-News.

Branch has also pushed for up to 25 percent of base funding for state universities to be tied to measurable outcomes like graduation rates—metrics that have been endorsed by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and, in many cases, are already being pursued by UT-Austin.

But increasing Texas’ long-term investment in higher education hasn’t been easy. The 2011 legislature saw substantial cuts to higher education funding. Any appropriations increase over 2011 will start with restoring the funds that were cut, including $180 million in formula funding.

The effort may be aided by a positive outlook in state revenue reported today by state comptroller Susan Combs. The revenue estimate represents a more than 12 percent increase over the 2012-13 biennium.

Legislators will determine the 2014-15 budget in this year’s session.

The Texas House Chamber. Photo courtesy wallyg via Flickr Creative Commons.


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