Students, alumni speak to legislators at biennial Austin event
March 2, 2017
Day at the Capitol buses began arriving at the Capitol around 10 a.m., where legislators in the Senate and House of Representatives passed recognitions regarding UH Day at the Capitol. | Jasmine Davis/The Cougar
Board of Regents Chairman Tilman Fertitta took the stage during lunch at Scholz Garden, where he implied at the death of the UT System’s expansion plans into Houston. “We’re not putting a campus in Austin and they’re not putting a campus in Houston,” Fertitta said. “I can promise you that.” Shortly before the group left Austin, State Sen. Borris Miles announced that the University of Texas System would not expand into Houston as planned, despite a $215 million plot of land the system had already purchased. | Jasmine Davis/The Cougar
UH System Chancellor and President Renu Khator applauded former chairman of the Board of Regents Welcome Wilson Sr. for bringing her to UH nine and a half years earlier and thanked students for their commitment to the University. “Thank you for coming here and advocating for the University of Houston and the University of Houston—Victoria,” Khator said, before leading the group in a chant of “Go Coogs.” | Jasmine Davis/The Cougar
Wilson Sr. and Board of Regents Vice Chairman Welcome Wilson Jr. criticized the Hazlewood Act, which provides free tuition and fees in Texas public universities for veterans, their spouses and children, but places the financial burden on the University. Wilson Jr. said the UH system compensates for up to $13 million under the act, most of which comes from tuition paid by other students. | Jasmine Davis/The Cougar
Smith and public health sophomore Richardo Gutierrez spoke on the importance of reliable financial aid for lower-income students. “I survive on getting the TEXAS Grant,” Gutierrez said at the office of Representative Rafael Anchia. “Being a lower income student, financial aid is of major importance to me. I chose to attend UH because of the aid they could provide me.” | Jasmine Davis/ The Cougar
Wilson Jr. stressed the importance of equal funding for UH’s pharmacy and nursing schools. “We get half the funding for pharmacy and nursing students as some of the other Texas universities,” Wilson said. He added that 100 percent of UH pharmacy students pass state and national qualifying exams. “With half the money, we’re able to produce better students,” Wilson said. “What we need the other half for is to expand our programs.” | Jasmine Davis/The Cougar
The UH System’s list of priorities included more investment in financial aid, specifically TEXAS Grants, that expands higher education access to students with limited means; state coverage of Hazlewood benefits; and avoiding the 4 percent budget cut being considered in the legislature. The 4 percent cut would reduce the UHS budget by more than $2.5 million. | Jasmine Davis/The Cougar
Nearly 200 students, administrators and alumni from UH and UH Victoria filed onto Texas State Capitol-bound buses at the Athletics-Alumni Center early Wednesday. Their mission: to advocate for legislation expanding funding to the University of Houston System.
After observing House and Senate proceedings in their respective chambers, the delegation moved to lunch at Texas institution, Scholz Garten, where the Spirit of Houston marching band played renditions of Cougar fight songs and System leadership made short speeches.
“It’s easy to ask for things, but everybody asks for things,” said Student Government Association president Shane Smith, who attended the Austin event. “It’s important to show why you’re asking for them and taking down the students—the whole reason the University exists—is kind of a good way to put a face with that request and show why the University of Houston is more deserving.”
Armed with fact sheets and thank-you gift bags, groups were assigned legislators with whom to meet. In those meetings, students advocated for issues the UH System hopes will be addressed by the 85th Texas Legislature.
“I think it’s important for the legislators to hear directly from students,” said Richard Walker, vice chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Services. “That’s one of the most important components of coming today, to put a student voice to all those legislative agenda items that we have developed, because in the end students are the ones most impacted by the funding issues that we’re dealing with.”