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Higher Ed Leaders Express Concerns Over Sequestration

In a letter sent to the Texas congressional delegation on Tuesday, a coalition of public and private higher education leaders shared their concerns about the effects of federal sequestration on university research and education in the state.

Reeve Hamilton moderates a discussion featuring chancellors from Texas' major university systems: Lee Jackson, University of North Texas; Renu Khator, University of Houston; John Sharp, Texas A&M; Brian McCall, Texas State University; Kent Hance, Texas Tech University; and Francisco Cigarroa, University of Texas.

In a letter sent to the Texas congressional delegation on Tuesday, five public university system chancellors, three private university presidents and one public university president shared their concerns about the effects of automatic federal spending cuts — known as sequestration — on university research and education in the state.

"Further reductions to the budgets of research agencies and other federal programs threaten critical national investments that grow our state's economy, support Texas students, and spur the innovation and discovery required to meet future scientific, medical and economic needs," the group of nine wrote.

The full roster of signatories is as follows: Texas Tech University President Duane Nellis, University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp, Texas State University System Chancellor Brian McCall, University of North Texas System Chancellor Lee Jackson, University of Houston System Chancellor Renu Khator, Southern Methodist University President R. Gerald Turner, Rice University President David Leebron and Baylor University President Ken Starr.

In their letter, the administrators noted that higher education is a significant part of the state's economy, employing nearly 270,000 faculty and staff throughout the state. The letter also cited fiscal year 2010 figures showing statewide university research and development expenditures at more than $4 billion, roughly half of which was federally funded. "The economic opportunities that arise for Texas business through technology transfer and commercialization are limitless, and the downstream economic benefits for Texas communities and our nation are tremendous," they wrote.

The group warned that sequestration cuts will stifle innovation, resulting in a reduction in gross domestic product, and that students — more than 850,000 are enrolled at Texas universities — will also suffer.

The leaders also asked that federal financial aid remain a national budget priority. "Many of these students rely upon federal education programs to attend college," the letter said. "The availability of federal financial aid, work-study programs, and affordable loans often determine whether these students attend college or not."

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