State legislature asks for a refund
UH officials were already expecting budget cuts for fiscal year 2012-2013, but Texas officials are asking for all higher education institutions to return 2.5 percent of state money issued for the current 2011 fiscal year.
A letter, dated Dec. 6 and signed by Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Strauss, asks that institutions “take a broad view across all programs and services to find savings opportunities.” The state is essentially asking universities for a refund.
President Renu Khator addressed this issue along with other upcoming budget issues at the Faculty Senate’s final meeting of the Fall semester. She said that for the State Legislature’s 5 percent budget cuts asked at the beginning of this year, higher education amounted for 41 percent of total cuts while only comprising around 12 percent of the total state budget.
Khator, along with five other state university chancellors, met with Strauss and fellow State Representatives Dan Patrick and Jim Pitts in Austin on the same day the letter was released.
The chancellors relayed that they understood the budget situation, but they also asked that “fair and equitable deductions” be made concerning higher education, Khator said.
“Cuts to higher education are destroying our future,” she said.
Khator discussed recent polls that indicate the general public supports cuts to higher education but only because “they don’t understand our language,” she said. But, she reinforced her commitment to UH and its faculty.
“Every opportunity I get, I will present our case,” Khator said. “If we stop (UH’s current) momentum, it will have long-lasting consequences.”
Provost John Antel, UH’s vice president of academic affairs, also addressed the Senate. Antel provided details about UH’s position within the state budget.
He also began the conversation that needs to take place in order for the University to tackle the 2.5 percent refund and all future budget cuts.
“I’ve got to be honest with you, everything is on the table,” Antel said. “We’re going to have to find other ways to survive and move this institution forward.”
Antel sees UH as being “very, very, very vulnerable” at the moment, and predicts that some hard action must be taken.
“We’re going to have to do some thing to get us through the short run while we look at how to manage for the long run,” he said.
Antel said the cuts to higher education will continue and that the challenge for UH and all public universities is to figure out how to deal with it and not give up. The goal to grow UH into a Tier One institution is still attainable.
“We’re not going to give up,” Antel said. “It will just take seven to eight years instead of four to five. Let’s be realistic, budget cuts slow you down.
“It’s very fair to make the assumption that we are not going to go back to prior levels of funding.”