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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

State

Proposition to extend loan program


In the wake of rising tuition costs and state budget cuts in college funding programs, UH students have the opportunity to vote for some extra help in the form of low-interest student loans proposed on today’s city election ballot.

Proposition 3 on the ballot is a state constitutional amendment allowing the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to issue general obligation bonds for the purpose of financing educational loans to students. More specifically, the amendment will allow the continued funding of the Hinson-Hazlewood College Student Loan Program, which offers low-interest student loans to Texas residents.

The Hinson-Hazlewood Program offers these loans under its College Access Loan Program. The program appeals to middle income families; it is not need based and now carries an annual fixed income rate of 5.25 percent in contrast to the 6.8 percent rate attached to federal unsubsidized loans.

UH professor and lobbyist Nancy Sims said she supports the proposition as an initiative to help college students burdened in tough economic times.

The proposition, composed by Sen. Royce West (D-TX), arrives as the state reaches its $1.9 billion mark for lending under student loan programs accumulated for 45 years and seven voting sessions authorizing increased lending authority. With its passage, the state will be approved to continue issuing new bonds, as old bonds are retired without the need of continued votes, provided the amount lent remains at its $350 million annual cap.

The amendment has generated several detractors, the most vocal of which are members of the organizations Empower Texans and the Houston Tea Party.

“Unelected bureaucrats can forever borrow money on behalf of the state, turn around and loan it to students in expectation that it will all be paid back, without ever coming back to the voters to approve of their actions,” Empower Texans social media coordinator Dustin Matocha said on the organization’s website regarding Proposition 3.

“Government should not be in the business of subsidizing any part of the market, let alone tuition loans.”

Matocha did not respond to calls seeking further comment in time for publication.

The Legislative Budget Board states that the bonds issued will be self-supporting, and the debt authority will not be included in the constitutional debt limit. This self-sufficiency also means that the bonds will not be funded through taxpayer dollars.

The UH Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid director said the department has no official stance on the proposition.

In a city election in which pundits expect to see only a 12-percent turnout, Sims expressed her hope that students will rise to take their fate into their own hands.

“People need to be very concerned about these elections,” Sims said.

“These things affect your daily life more than the issues in Washington D.C.”

Voting information, polling locations and sample ballots can be found at www.harrisvotes.com. Polling locations are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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