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Friday, July 23, 2021

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Stable formula funding, research highlight UH’s legislative agenda


The University's agenda for the 87th Texas Legislative Session names seven priorities and six exceptional items specific to the main campus. | File Photo/The Cougar

The University’s agenda for the 87th Texas Legislative Session names seven priorities and six exceptional items specific to the main campus. | File Photo/The Cougar

The University has named seven priorities for funding in its agenda for the 87th Texas Legislative session, which started Jan. 12. 

The agenda requests the maintenance of existing funding levels, restoration of reductions instituted during the summer of 2020 and provisions of financial support for research projects as well as infrastructure.

UH is asking the legislature to provide formula funding that remains consistent with the rate of $55.85 per semester credit hour allocated for the 2020-21 biennium, explaining that “formula funding is the most important factor in making a college education affordable to Texans.”  

Calculated by the Higher Education Coordinating Board, formula funding is a calculation of how state funding can be distributed equitably among higher education institutions. The formula funding rate accounts for the cost of instruction, operations and infrastructure support.

The formula funding recommendation for the 2022-23 biennium is $57.28. 

The University is encouraging the legislature to prioritize funding for financial aid, specifically the Towards Excellence, Access and Success Grant award. 

The TEXAS Grant provides higher education funding for students classified as Texas residents who demonstrate financial need and meet the additional requirements. In the 2020-21 academic year, eligible students in Texas may receive up to $5,039 per semester in funding.

UH is imploring the legislature to restore budget cuts from last summer. The agenda asks that the state restore reductions made to formula funding, institutional enhancement, downward expansion and other state support, citing that the cuts limited the University’s ability to carry out its core missions during the pandemic. 

In addition, the University is calling for the preservation of expansion funding for UH-Victoria and UH-Clear Lake. The expansion, known as downward expansion, will allow the schools to evolve from upper-division only institutions into four-year universities. 

The University is calling on the legislature to fund tuition for students eligible for tuition assistance under the Hazelwood Act or to modify eligibility requirements, citing its strain on the budget. 

The Hazelwood Act is a Texas benefit that provides tuition exemption for veterans, their spouses and dependents up to 150 credit hours at a certified public institution. The exemption costs are the responsibility of the University.

In fiscal year 2020, the program cost UH $10.5 million, a $300,000 increase from the previous year. 

The University is asking that the legislature preserve funding to four UH research funds, including the National Research University Fund, the Governor’s University Research Initiative and the Texas Research Incentive Program

In addition to research funding, UH is also asking for infrastructure support through the issuance of tuition revenue bonds. The bonds will have their debt serviced by the revenue of the project for which it was given, and pledge a revenue stream provided by income from tuition charges levied against students or the University.  

The University has also named six exceptional items specific to the University’s main campus in the agenda. This includes maintaining funding for the College of Medicine and the Hobby School of Public Affairs. 

University administrators will not travel to Austin for the legislative session, although a virtual Day at the Capitol is in the works, said UH spokesperson Shawn Lindsey. 

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