A renewed focus must be placed on higher education this legislative session with fewer cuts to university budgets, more funding allotted for campus construction projects and logic-based discourse.
The 83rd legislative session began Jan. 8, and issues impacting students the most, such as higher education, need to be put on the main stage right from the start. Although religious beliefs or lack thereof should be respected for each individual privately, logic and reason must be used as the primary tools regarding decision-making on the session floor. This will become especially important with hot-button issues such as concealed carry on campus.
Last legislative session, Gov. Rick Perry tacked several issues with an “emergency item” status, but none of the topics included higher education. The topics Perry noted as most important included a sonogram requirement for abortions, protecting property rights regarding eminent domain, abolishing sanctuary cities, voter ID and adding a budget-balancing U.S. Constitutional amendment. While these issues are important for state officials to discuss and find solutions to, higher education was the largely ignored elephant in the room.
According to a Jan. 23 University Star article, approximately $24 million was cut from the Texas State’s state appropriation between the past two sessions. The university is suffering financially, and the “rainy day” funding pot university officials dipped into after last session may run dry in the face of additional cuts.
Legislators should want to secure solid funding for universities. They should additionally ensure students are given the best opportunity to receive a college education. Students are the future of this nation, and university funding cannot be thrown to the wayside again.
Perry recently announced a multi-billion dollar budget surplus for the legislature to work with this session. It is smart to be fiscally conservative, but with all of this extra funding, universities should not be facing the same levels of budget cuts they have in the past few years. Instead of letting this money go to waste in earmarks, there is more than enough to help university budgets and the construction of desperately needed campus buildings.
According to the same University Star article, Presidentrecently spoke to the legislature and mentioned her continued push for the new Health Professions Building and the Engineering and Science Building. These two buildings are rightly the university’s highest priorities and must be funded by the legislature this session. Students are expanding in these career fields and need adequate building space, classrooms and equipment to function. Construction on these projects could take years, and other tasks, including a new music building, will need attention next session. It is vital the university receives funding for its highest priority buildings soon.
In addition, concealed carry will be a hot discussion topic for the legislature. In the wake of recent mass shootings across the nation, legislators will feel pressure to address the issue of concealed carry on campus. The editorial board urges elected officials to reach out to their student constituents to get feedback on this incredibly important and divisive issue. In an Oct. 22 University Star article, the Associated Student Government voted to allow concealed carry at Texas State for the second time in three years, but the first time it was vetoed and the second result was not brought before lawmakers. Regardless of the result, this vote needs to be based on objective research and not religious or personal biases.
Legislators must take a solid stand this session toward improving the funding and functions of universities.