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TribBlog: Financial Aid May Face Budget Ax

About three-fourths of the Higher Education Coordinating Board's budget is student financial aid, a large portion of which the board proposes to cut in a mandated 5-percent reduction plan for all state agencies.

Texas students could lose more than $47 million in financial aid under proposed budget cuts from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

When it comes to budget matters, the coordinating board in some ways acts more like a bank than a bureaucracy. It “coordinates” rather than directly governs, a task left to individual boards of regents for university systems. And so, although the board has a massive general revenue budget of almost $1.5 billion, it merely passes on most of that money to colleges for specific academic programs — and directly to their students in financial aid.

Indeed, 72 percent of the total, more than $1 billion, is composed of financial aid, according to the letter that accompanied the agency’s recent proposal to ax 5 percent out of its budget. And so a similarly large portion of the proposed $73 million in total cuts would also come out of financial aid. The cuts affect five programs: TEXAS grant, the Texas Education Opportunity Grant, Texas Work-Study, the B-On-Time Loan Program and the Tuition Equalization Grant Program, according to the board’s budget plan.

Every state agency — including every university — had to come up with 5-percent plans recently as the request of the governor, lieutenant governor and house speaker, who collectively are trying to prepare for a brutal budget session next year.

The structure of the board's budget makes it that much harder to avoid painful cutbacks, wrote Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Parades.

“The structure of the Coordinating Board’s budget makes it difficult not to reduce programs that will negatively impact students. Additionally, while the reductions may appear to have been applied across the board, I assure you that this is not the case. These recommendations are made after careful deliberation and consideration of the impact that the reductions will have on each program,” Paredes wrote.

In consideration, the board’s budget proposal asks the powers that be, IN ALL CAPS, that “THESE FINANCIAL AID PROGRAMS BE EXEMPTED FROM THE 5% REDUCTION.”

He may have a powerful argument, but one that, when the legislative session arrives, will be thrown into the hopper with every other state agency’s powerful arguments. The money has to come from somewhere. 

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