Texas State officials are waiting to see how higher education issues such ranging from new buildings to money lost from previous budget cuts fare in the current legislative session.
The 83rd Session of the Texas Legislature began Jan. 8 with many higher education issues on the table. Bill Nance, vice president for Finance and Support Services, said the major issues in the legislature are “always about funding.” For Texas State, this includes money for new buildings, compensating for government funds cut in previous years and increased grant limits.
Nance said the highest priority for all higher education institutions across the state, including the Texas State University System, is to restore some of the funding lost in budget cuts. The state cut approximately $24 million from the university’s state appropriation between the past two sessions. There has been an effort from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to get some of that funding restored for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.
“That’s a lot of money,” Nance said. “That would be $24 million for us and hundreds of millions statewide.”
Robert Gratz, special assistant to President, said she will give a testimony along with other university presidents on Jan. 25 at the Senate Finance Committee. Gratz said Trauth’s testimony will emphasize successes Texas State has had in the past two years. She will stress the university’s highest priorities, which include the new Health Professions Building in Round Rock and the Engineering and Science Building on the main campus.
Nance said these new buildings are a large priority for Texas State because enrollment growth has caused a need for facilities to adequately accommodate all students.
Nance said Texas State has submitted information for funding for two additional buildings: a new home for the School of Music in San Marcos and a second Health Professions facility in Round Rock. The university is asking for startup funds to implement a range of online nursing programs including a Bachelor of Science and Registered Nurse certification. They asked for similar startup funding when the nursing program was started in Round Rock.
“There’s never been an institution in Texas to get four projects funded in one session of the legislature,” Nance said. “So we’re hopeful that we can get two.”
The coordinating board has asked the legislature to increase funding based on enrollment growth statewide, which Texas State supports, Nance said. In addition, it has asked to get an increase in the level of the funding.
“Frankly, we’ll be thrilled if we could get a 7.1 percent increase in our appropriation plus compensated for our enrollment growth,” Nance said.
Dominic Chavez, director of external relations for the THECB, said the coordinating board has identified moving to an outcome or performance-based funding model for universities as one of the key priorities.
Chavez said the coordinating board’s funding formulas are based solely on enrollment. The board is recommending 90 percent of the funding still be based on enrollment, with 10 percent based on seven student outcomes. The outcomes would be agreed upon by the universities and show how they are doing in helping students complete degree plans.
Nance said Texas State does well on meeting the performance funding criteria and would benefit if the 10 percent of funds were allocated via the formula.
Chavez said another priority of the coordinating board is providing institutions with more flexibility in the grant award amounts they give to students. The priority stems from concern about affordability and access to higher education. He said 60 percent of the students in the “public education pipeline” are considered economically disadvantaged, and as those students get inspired to attend college, they will need help paying for it.