Discussion begins on effects of budget cuts on UH system

UH faces its greatest challenge from the budget cuts proposed by the Texas legislature according to several speakers at a Board of Regents meeting Wednesday.

Vice Chancellor for Governmental Relations Grover Campbell said the UH System has likely seen the worst-case scenario in the House Appropriations bill.

For the system, cuts in funding would constitute a $100 million reduction in general revenue over the next two years.

“I never thought we’d have a chance to use that dollar amount associated with our system,” Campbell said.

The House bill, along with its companion in the Senate, would also almost completely eliminate the Texas grants, a state-run financial aid program.

Faculty Senate President Monica McHenry said the potential elimination of the Texas Grant program is the single greatest threat to UH’s commitment to student success.

The program provides the only means of tuition for many first-generation college students, and allows for a well-rounded university, McHenry said.

Campbell said there are a number of things standing in the way of UH getting the state funding it needs.

Discussions in Austin about how to appropriate funds are taking place during legislative and congressional redistricting, a task taken up only once every ten years but which makes bipartisanship much more difficult.

Combine that with increases in demand for public services caused by a rise in population, and a state deficit that is estimated to be between $15 and $30 billion, and you get what Campbell called a “perfect storm” of a budgetary crisis.

Provost John Antel said UH is currently at about 25 percent state funding, but in the next decade that number will likely drop below ten percent.

Despite this, UH will take up Governor Rick Perry’s recent challenge of offering a four-year degree that costs only $10,000 for students, including textbooks. Antel said the University is focusing on increasing revenue and reducing costs in response to the budgetary crisis.

“This is the beginning of the discussion. It’s a complex issue; there isn’t any one way to solve this,” Antel said. “We have to look at all our systems one at a time.”

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