By Jonathan Smith, Staff Writer
Texas’ multibillion-dollar budget deficit could cause a decrease in ACU students’ Tuition Equalization Grants and Texas Grants for the 2003-04 school year.
TEGs and Texas Grants could be cost-cutting targets after Gov. Rick Perry’s office ordered all state agencies to decrease their 2003 budgets by 7 percent. ACU should not feel the effects of the possible grant decreases until next school year because students’ grant funds have already been assigned for this semester.
“The state budget this year will be the most difficult we’ve had to face in several years,” said Dr. Bob Hunter, 71st District state representative and ACU senior vice president emeritus, in anticipation of the reported $10 to $15 billion deficit.
Hunter, who helped coordinate the passage of the Texas TEG program in 1969, said the program initially distributed $1 million between students wishing to attend one of the state’s 44 private universities. It has now grown to $100 million a year. More than $4 million of that goes to ACU students, who also receive about $1.5 million in Texas Grants.
Phil Schubert, vice president for finance, said the grant programs “have been steadily increasing over the past five years. We’re hoping not to lose too much of the progress that’s been made.”
Public universities statewide will take more drastic measures to cut budgets as they are funded more directly and significantly by the state.
According to an article from the Dallas Morning News, budget cuts will cause the University of Texas at Austin to hire fewer professors, Texas Woman’s College to retain fewer campus police officers, Collin County Community College to possibly lose some intercollegiate sports and tuitions to rise.
Universities, medical schools, community colleges and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board must collectively cut $343.8 million this school year, according to the article.
“We’re in a better situation to absorb the deficit than larger universities,” Schubert said. “Public institutions receive a much higher percentage of their total funding from state sources. While ACU’s state support is largely limited to student grant programs, public institutions also receive significant operating allocations in addition to student grant funding.”
That does not mean ACU won’t feel the impact of the deficit.
“We’re hopeful that we won’t be as negatively impacted,” Schubert said and also admitted that the university will not fully know how it is affected until after the Texas Legislature meets next. They will decide how the state will deal with the deficit by re-allocating some programs and agencies funds.
The economic turndown has caused budget deficits in states nationwide. In California, the only state with a larger population than Texas, the budget deficit has reached $35 to $40 billion.
Hunter said he hopes the economy will begin to turn up this year so ACU will not face future cuts to its students’ grants.