By Melanie J. Knox, Opinion Editor
When the Texas Legislature faced a 12.5 percent shortfall in expected revenue, the resulting reductions affected students.
Tuition Equalization Grant funding was reduced by 14.5 percent, said Carol McDonald, president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas.
The Legislature appropriated $162.2 million to the Texas Grant in the 2003 fiscal year, but still more than 20,000 eligible applicants did not receive money, McDonald said, adding that the Legislature would have needed to appropriate $53.5 million more to cover the shortfall.
“What this shortfall means is that students returning to school, those who had already received the grant, were first in line,” McDonald said. “The institutions gave to entering freshman after they met the needs of the returning students, which left many fewer receiving the grants.”
For the 2003 fiscal year, the TEG received an $70.3 million appropriation, compared to 82.2 million in the 2002 fiscal year.
McDonald said that in 2002, 33,034 students received an average TEG of $2,488. If that average remains the same, she said, only 28,262 students could receive the grant. If the average changes though, she said, and the institutions make the grants smaller, about 30,000 could possibly receive grants, noting that this is still 3,000 less than the previous year.
“We don’t have counts recorded yet, but it’s safe to say it will be a fewer number,” she said.
The lack of funds has affected a certain population of the student body, said Harry Tritt, associate director of student financial services.
“We just didn’t have any more state money to give,” he said.
Students can receive up to $3,570 from the TEG, and if they receive the Texas Grant as well, the amount still cannot exceed that. The maximum students can receive from the Texas Grant is $3,140.
Tritt said that 1,327 ACU students are receiving the TEG to date, and that most of them are receiving the maximum amount of $3,570, or close to that with a combination of Texas Grant money.
He also said that 394 students have renewed their Texas Grant this year, and 188 began their initial year with the grant.
State Rep. Bob Hunter, vice president emeritus of the university, said that the need is always higher than what they are able to provide through the grant programs, attributing some of this to the fact that more people are attending college than in previous years. He added, though, that those who are most needy are being helped.
Hunter previously acted as the executive vice president of ICUT on leave from ACU and adopted the TEG when it began in 1971 with 25 recipients and a one million dollar appropriation. The TEG now has 35,000 recipients from more than 40 fully accredited private universities, Hunter said.