Future of UH: public or private
With a cut in state funds, UH will operate more like a private institution instead of a public university.
“The reality is that if we are funded at 80 percent or more from non-state funds, we will look and operate more like a private university, while maintaining our commitment to educational opportunity,” said Provost John Antel.
Every Thursday, The Daily Cougar will take an in-depth look at how proposed cuts to the state’s higher education allocation will affect the University and its future.
Feb. 17: Tier One initiative
Feb. 24: Staff terminations
March 3: Athletics programs
March 10: The role of community colleges
March 24: Public vs. private debate
March 31: Financial aid
Track this series and find expanded resources on thedailycougar.com/budgetcuts2011
Private universities depend less on government money and more on student tuition and donations to cover operating costs (e.g. staff salaries, supplies and building upkeep).
With an estimated $27 billion deficit in the Texas state budget, the state will be paying for less of UH’s operating costs as of the new state biennium.
According to a presentation given by Antel at a December Faculty Senate meeting, state support for UH’s operating costs have dropped by 12 percent in the past ten years while student support has risen by the same amount to compensate for the loss.
“State support to the University of Houston has fallen by 44 percent since 1981,” said Antel in an email interview.
“Twenty years ago the state accounted for 48 percent of our operating budget; in the 2011 fiscal year, it accounted for 26 percent of our operating budget. This is why you’ve seen students having to shoulder a higher percentage of the cost of their own education.”
Since the Texas Legislature is still in session and state representatives and senators have yet to approve proposed budget cuts, no definite action has been taken regarding a rise in tuition.
The budget cuts could affect tuition, outgoing Student Government Association President Prince Wilson said.
“However, I have been discussing tuition and fees for a couple of weeks with the administration. I can assure students they are not going to go up drastically; its not going to go up compared to what we use to do,” Wilson said.
“We have worked with administration to cap it at 5 percent, and it’s not going to go more than that.”
In the December meeting, Antel said the UH community had to start the conversation on changes to how the University would operate and function.
UH has been exploring other options for financing and how to continue providing access to the public.
“The reality is that we must continue to find and cultivate other means of funding, as private institutions have done all along, to maintain our commitment to educational opportunity,” Antel said.
“This includes growing our philanthropy, research and financial aid dollars and continuing to do it to a greater degree.”
This is not new, nor is it unique to UH or Texas, Antel said.
According to a report by The Delta Project, a nonprofit organization that aims to improve college affordability, tuition at state institutions covered 50 percent of costs in 2008 compared to only 38 percent in 1998.
“Institutions of higher education and students nationwide have been dealing with similar circumstances for many years,” Antel said.
Regardless of the operation and the levels of funding, UH will “remain a public university in every way,” Antel said.
“The only thing that changes between budgets is our funding formula,” he said. “UH is no different than any public university or state agency in that regard.”
Wilson echoes Antel in stating that UH will remain public.
“We will always be public, but our funding will come from private sources — we will be supported by students; we will be supported more by endowments; we will be supported by grants and donations and things like that,” Wilson said.
“If you look, we already have a lot of private donations that keep us going.”