Thursday, June 1, 2017

Late #TXLEGE reprieve fuels new round of higher ed hubris....

"For the day of the Lord of hosts
Shall come upon everything proud and lofty,
Upon everything lifted up—
And it shall be brought low—"
Isaiah 2:12

The arrogance is palpable:
Some of Texas’ top lawmakers entered the 2017 legislative session with big plans to shake up higher education in the state. Instead, their 140 days' worth of work was most notable for what they didn’t do to public universities.

The Legislature didn’t overhaul how the universities are funded — or hit them with big cuts. It didn’t freeze tuition. It didn’t repeal the state’s controversial automatic college admissions law. It didn’t pare back a free tuition program for veterans and their kids. And it didn’t eliminate a widely used but controversial financial aid program for poor students.

In the end, the funding and oversight of higher education in Texas next year will look pretty similar to how it did last year. To university leaders who spent much of the session in a state of dread, that’s welcome news.


As a result, many schools ended up faring better than expected — and better than many other areas in the budget. Total general revenue sent to the universities increased by about 1 percent, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Only about 40-percent of four-year universities or system offices ended up facing reductions.

It wasn’t all good news for higher education leaders, however. Many of the schools receiving increases didn’t get enough new money to cover enrollment growth from the past two years. And schools still haven’t made up for the losses they incurred from 2011 — the last time the Legislature made big cuts.

“The budget looked a lot worse in January than it did on May 29,” Paredes said, but added, “It doesn’t look as good as it could have.


“Next session, some issues like addressing tuition increases might be more palpable if there actually is an increase in funding,” [House Higher Ed Chairman Lozano] said.
But, in terms of abject arrogance Greg Fenves takes the cake:
You may read in the media that UT Austin’s funding for 2018-2019 has not been cut. This is true, but some of the money in our new budget is one-time funding that will likely not continue beyond 2019. Our recurring base funding was reduced by about $27 million per year, primarily because of the formula funding process. But the Legislature generously allocated one-time funding — for this biennium only — which enables UT Austin to maintain our current base level of funds and also gives us time to reduce expenditures accordingly. I greatly appreciate their support.

In addition, Dell Medical School will receive new base funding for medical education, resident training and research. Overall, with the new medical school funding and the one-time funding, the total state appropriation to UT for the 2018-2019 biennium increased slightly. The Legislature also increased Texas Grants by 10 percent, which provides much needed financial aid for students across Texas. This vital program helps with affordability and access to UT and other public universities for students with financial need.

With the decrease in UT’s recurring base budget, the reality is that we — the leadership, faculty and staff — must allocate our resources more efficiently. Over the coming months, we will develop strategies to improve our operations and refine priorities. The one-time funding for this upcoming biennium will allow us to undertake a thoughtful process for implementing budget reductions. With that said, one of my highest priorities is to recognize the excellence of our faculty members and staff members, and that includes competitive salaries. This commitment will continue to inform our budgetary decisions.
In other words, after paying lip service to concerns about cost explosion, Greg Fenves lays the foundation for another tuition increase while openly telling the world that his top budget priority is pay raises for bureaucrats.

That being said, while UT is unsurprisingly the worst actor, all of the Universities are guilty of hubris.

Bottom Line: Nothing is going to change (for now).  But the financial trajectory remains as unsustainable as it's always been.  The longer the status quo continues, the more devastating the eventual reckoning is going to be.

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