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General Resources for UT Advocates

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2017 Legislative Priorities for the 85th Session

FORMULA FUNDING

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HISTORY

Formula funding is how state higher-education institutions equitably distribute available state funds. They allocate base level of funding primarily based on enrollment. The formula is calculated by the Higher Education Coordinating Board and its recommendations are presented to the Legislative Budget Board in June of even years.

In 2011, higher education suffered substantial cuts to base funding levels.

2017 GOAL

We ask the legislature to restore formula funding to their 2009 levels to best support the university’s academic functions. If funding is not restored to those levels, current funding amounts should be maintained.

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS

UT has plenty of money and doesn’t need additional state resources.

  • Since 1984, UT Austin has seen a more than 40 percent decrease in state funding, yet it maintains the lowest per-student, per-year cost when compared with twelve other major research universities.
  • The money coming from the Available University Fund to UT Austin is only 9 percent of the budget, and can only be used for academic program enrichment purposes. Some examples include library enhancement, specialized STEM equipment, and scholarships.

The legislature has recently boosted higher education funding, so why add to that among all of the other needs out there?

  • For every tax dollar spent on education a student at UT Austin, Texans gain a 15-to-1 return on that investment through a more skilled and knowledgeable workforce.

UT just received a money for capital renovations.

  • Special items and capital funding for campus facilities fall outside of formula funding.
  • Tuition-Revenue Bonds (TRBs) do not involve tuition money, and has nothing to do with alleviating the academic financial needs of the university.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW 

  • UT Austin enrollment continues to grow; total enrollment in the fall of 2015 was 50,950 students.

  • Adjusted for inflation, base funding has fallen by more than 40 percent since the mid-1980s.

  • General revenue accounts for a mere 12 percent of UT Austin’s budget.

TUITION REREGULATION

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HISTORY

In 2003, the Capitol granted tuition-setting authority to the governing boards of public colleges and universities instead of the Texas State Legislature under HB 3015. This was due in part to a handicap posed on universities from deep cuts in state funding to higher education and the need for flexibility for institutions to remain competitive with national peers. Legislators understood that this vote would result in decreased state support and increased tuition.

Plans for reform in the last session and during the interim have ranged from complete state regulation of tuition to codifying certain benchmarks for institutions to meet in order for them to be able to consider tuition increases.

In 2016, UT Austin requested a 3% tuition increase in each of the next two years, and that request was approved by the Board of Regents. This is after resident undergraduate tuition has been frozen at UT Austin since fall 2011.

2017 GOAL

We ask the legislature to support public higher education institutions by maintaining the flexibility to set tuition and fees upon approval by the corresponding board of regents.

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS

The instituion lacks efficiency.

  • In 2015, Kiplinger ranked UT Austin the 13th Best-Value Public College in the nation and the number one Best-Value in Texas.
  • Financial aid increases have out-paced increases in listed tuition for resident undergraduates at UT Austin over the last decade.
  • President Fenves prioritized efficiency in his State of the University address, and UT Austin is a model for efficiency in higher education. For example, administrative cost is 5.4 percent according to figures collected by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

More regulation will encourage universities to more rapidly increase four year graduation rates.

  • The number of students to graduate on time from UT reached record highs this year, with 60.9 percent of undergraduates earning their degrees in four years or less.

The legislature has recently boosted higher education funding in terms of formula and research funding, and there is no cause for increases in tuition on the heels of this enhanced funding

  • The proposed increase of three percent in tuition over the next two years just keeps up with inflation.
  • State revenue was reduced by $92 million to UT Austin for the biennium in 2012.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Since 1984, adjusted state funding is down more than 40 percent.
  • The University of Texas at Austin’s tuition percent increase was significantly less after deregulation (2003-2015) than before deregulation (1993-2003).
  • UT Austin has not raised tuition since 2011.

UNIVERSITY RESEARCH FUNDING

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HISTORY

In 2011-2012 UT Austin’s amount from the Texas Competitive Knowledge Fund (TCKF) dropped to $18.4m/year. This level amounted to a reduction of one-third since the fund was created. The 83rd Legislature began restoring funding to TCKF for the 2015-2016 biennium.

The Texas Competitive Knowledge and Research Development Funds were phased out last legislative session, and three new funds were created. The Texas Research University Fund provides a $1.2 million investment for every $10 million in research expenditures at UT-Austin and Texas A&M. The Core Research Support Fund supports emerging institutions, and the Comprehensive Research Fund will cover the rest of the colleges and universities in Texas.

Preexisting matching funds will also now include undergraduate research as well as graduate research, and the new Governor’s University Research Initiative adds $40 million to help universities attract world-class researchers.

2017 GOAL

We ask the legislature to support the Governor’s University Research initiative and to continue to invest in research programming at the public Tier One institutions through the Texas Research University Fund.

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS

Research does not add substance to a higher education.

  • Basic research is conducted at universities and colleges throughout the nation to contribute to greater knowledge and understanding of fundamental phenomena in physical sciences, engineering, environmental and life sciences, and the humanities.
  • Students at a Tier One research institution receive invaluable opportunities for applied learning through hands-on experiences, advanced problem solving and instruction from world class faculty.

Nothing useful comes out of university research.

  • Some examples of the innovation that have come from UT Austin research include: lithium-ion batteries, anthrax treatment, whooping cough vaccine, replacement heart valves, and safe nuclear waste removal.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Sponsored research at UT Austin has extended humanity’s base of knowledge and brings royalties, tax revenues, and new business to the Lone Star State.
  • Research from UT Austin brings in more than $724 million to the Texas economy, the equivalent of almost 12,000 jobs.
  • Research at UT Austin has resulted in more than 700 U.S. and international patents over the past decade.

FINANCIAL AID

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HISTORY

State funding for higher education continues to fall, forcing tuition rates to increase in order to account for the loss. The Texas Legislature repealed student financial aid programs like the Top 10% Scholarship program and the B-On-Time program. These programs directly supported students with more than 100 million dollars, and encouraged on-time degree completion. Students now rely on federal funding and the Texas Grants Program.

2017 GOAL

We ask the legislature to restore and support financial aid programs.

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS

If the cost of tuition wasn’t so high, students wouldn’t need financial aid.

  • UT Austin tuition ranks 6th on tuition when compared to other Texas public universities.
  • UT Austin has the second to lowest rate of tuition when compared with fourteen national peers.
  • UT Austin received 43,592 applications for the 2015 academic year that show there is substantial and growing interest in obtaining a degree from a Tier One teaching and research institution; students still view obtaining a degree as a net positive investment.

Financial aid should be covered at the institutional level.

  • For the 2014 academic year, the average tuition and fee rates were covered at 114 percent for UT System, meaning that a large percentage of resident undergraduate students paid nothing towards tuition and fee charges and received additional aid to cover books and housing.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • State support for financial aid programs has dwindled, creating an abrupt gap in funding.
  • UT Austin is actively looking for ways to promote on-time graduation which helps keep financial needs low.
  • UT Austin is a great value education.

DELL MEDICAL SCHOOL

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HISTORY

The Dell Medical School is the first new medical school to be built on the campus of an AAU-recognized research university in nearly 50 years. In 2011, state Senator Kirk Watson proposed building a UT Austin medical school as the centerpiece of 10 community health-related goals to achieve in 10 years. Travis County voters approved a city-wide referendum for bond package. As recently as 2012, Austin was the largest city in the country with a Tier One research university but without a medical school. The Dell Medical School welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.

2017 GOAL

We ask the legislature to provide secure funding for Dell Medical School in the state’s budget.

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS

Austin doesn’t need or want another medical enterprise.

  • This is an investment in the state of Texas that was mandated by the community when they passed Proposition 1 in 2012 to use local property tax revenue to help fund the school.

Dell Med is isolated from our established Austin-area healthcare community.

  • Dell Medical has partnerships with the people of Travis County, the Seton Healthcare Family and Central Health, as well as to local physicians, nonprofits, entrepreneurs; the medical school is connected in deep and meaningful ways to the community.

UT Austin doesn’t need the money for Dell Med School.

  • Education of medical students should be established under the formula used for other medical schools located at health-related institutions.
  • Dell Med School should be funded in the same way other public institutions training medical resident students receive funding.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Dell Medical is an investment in the future of medicine worldwide and technological innovation in the way we heal and care for our people.
  • The Dell Medical School’s partnership with the people of Austin and Travis County is unprecedented. The school would not exist without the support of its community.
  • The school would not exist without the state support granted to all public health related institutions.

2016 Federal Priorities

BASIC RESEARCH: FUNDING FOR ALL FEDERAL AGENCIES SUPPORTING SCIENTIFIC DEVELOPMENT AND INNOVATION

Basic research is conducted at universities and colleges throughout the nation to contribute to greater knowledge and understanding of fundamental phenomena in physical sciences, engineering, environmental and life sciences, and the humanities. It is the very foundation for spurring technological progress.

Public colleges and universities educate 68 percent of the nation’s postsecondary students and are the engines of innovation through robust basic research discoveries. The United States is the global leader in science and technology. Other countries, such as China and Korea, are now making significant investments to compete with us in these fields.

Research conducted at UT Austin brings in more than $724 million to the Texas economy, the equivalent of almost 12,000 jobs. Research is playing an increasingly important role at UT Austin with research expenditures accounting for nearly one-half of UT’s overall budget.

The federal government plays an important role in the research conducted at UT. For instance, in 2015 UT Austin received approximately 56 percent of its research funding from federal sources. In 2013, 73 percent of research funding was from federal sources. The decrease was a result of flat or decreased funding available at federal agencies and more faculty competing for it. Some highlights:

  • Funding provided by the National Institutes of Health is currently helping researchers at UT Austin develop techniques for imaging and manipulating the activity of neurons in the brain. These techniques will help explore the mechanisms of addiction, obesity, fear, and many other brain states and disorders.
  • A team of Cockrell School of Engineering researchers funded by National Science Foundation grants has invented a method for producing inexpensive and high-performing wearable patches. They can continuously monitor the body’s vital signs for health and performance tracking, potentially outperforming traditional monitoring tools such as cardiac event monitors.
  • UT Austin professor John Goodenough conducted pioneering work that led to the invention of the lithium-ion battery. He developed critical materials needed to power portable electronics, initiating the wireless revolution. Today more than 3 billion batteries are produced every year—this technology is vital to powering medical implants, tablets, and smartphones.

We ask Congress to:

  • Finish the FY17 appropriations process to ensure budget certainty for both research programs and higher education access.
  • Enhance federal funding for government agencies conducting basic research at universities and colleges such as the NIH, NSF, DOD, NASA and DOE, NIST, NEA, and NEH. (Note: The FY17 appropriations bills currently in process do provide increases to basic research funding at NIH, NSF, DOE. However, basic research funding is cut in the DOD budget.)

RISING COST OF COLLEGE

Public higher education is the engine that powers innovation, economic growth, entrepreneurship, and learning in the U.S. Despite this, across the nation state legislatures are reducing their investments in higher education. As a result, students now pay a larger share of the cost of attending public universities than state governments contribute.

UT Austin has seen a more than 40-percent decline in support from the Texas Legislature over the last few decades. While state support now accounts for a mere 12 percent of UT’s budget, enrollment has grown by more than 22,000 students.

In spite of this, UT Austin offers a tremendous value. The average cost of tuition at peer institutions is $11,880 while UT Austin charges only $9,858 per year. In fact, UT Austin has the second-lowest tuition among its 15 national peer intuitions, and has recently been listed among the top-20 Best Values by prestigious publications such as Kiplinger, Forbes, and The Business Journals.

Even though UT Austin remains one of the best higher education values in the nation, unfortunately a growing number of students are struggling with student debt and more are relying on federal financial aid. To ensure an educated and skilled workforce into the future, and opportunities for many to come, we urge Congress to:

  • Adequately fund student financial aid programs such as the Pell Grant and Federal Work-Study.
  • Restore the year-round Pell Grant program.
  • Give universities the authority to set borrowing limits at lower levels for groups of students (rather than on an individual basis) based on factors such as course of study, enrollment intensity, and level 6 7 of academic preparedness.
  • Eliminate the student loan origination fee.
  • Reinstate subsidized loans for graduate and professional students to reduce student loan debt.
  • Streamline income-based repayment programs and automatically enroll borrowers at risk of default in IBR plans. In any tax reform legislation, address the issue of tax relief on forgiven loan debt, changing the current law from treating forgiven debt as taxable income the year it is forgiven to allocating the forgiven debt as taxable income over a five-year period.
  • Allow borrowers to discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy.
  • Simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and allow the use of household income data from prior years. (Note: This practice was implemented this academic year through Department of Education rules, but the change to prior years needs to be codified in the Higher Education Act when it is reauthorized.)

CAMPUS SEXUAL ASSAULT: KEEPING STUDENTS SAFE AND TEACHING CONSENT

UT Austin is committed to providing safe settings for students and is working diligently to find new and better ways to prevent, investigate, and respond to cases of sexual assault.

We applaud the current efforts Congress has taken and their recognition that this issue is very important to our college campuses, and we encourage Congress to ensure that proposed policies and procedures are fair to all students, and ultimately result in safer campus environments.

UT Austin and the UT System have created a pioneering Blueprint for Campus Police, the first research-based, multi-level approach to the complex problem of campus sexual assault. The full report can be found at https:// utexas.app.box.com/v/blueprintforcampuspolice.

In order to better protect our students from sexual violence and ensure our institutions of higher education remain safe and dedicated places of innovation and learning, we encourage Congress to:

  • Continue collaboration on the Campus Accountability and Safety Act in order to improve and pass the bill.
  • Provide funding and enact programs aimed at lowering the incidents of sexual violence and providing services to survivors.
  • Allow for individual campuses and institutions to create policies best suited to their circumstances and in coordination with campus and city police departments.
  • Enact legislation expressly protecting any victim of sexual assault and take into account the legal protection and due process rights of alleged perpetrators without proof of guilt.
  • Address the increased rate of sexual assault on faculty and visitors to campus.

2015 Federal Priorities

Budget Certainty

Public colleges and universities educate 68 percent of the nation’s postsecondary students and are the engines of innovation through robust basic research discoveries. The United States is the global leader in science and technology. Other countries, such as China and Korea, are now making significant investments to compete with us in these fields. To maintain our global leadership in science and technology, and to ensure an educated, highly skilled workforce for the state of Texas and the nation, we encourage Congress to:

  • Negotiate and enact a two-year budget deal, which will eliminate the budget caps and provide much-needed long-term stability
  • Eliminate sequestration
  • If a two-year budget deal is not reached, honor the provisions of the Budget Control Act requiring defense and non-discretionary defense funding to be treated equally. This would lessen the severity of cuts to higher education funding sources. 

Basic Research: Funding for all federal agencies supporting scientific development and innovation

Basic research is conducted at universities and colleges throughout the nation to contribute to greater knowledge and understanding of fundamental phenomena in physical sciences, engineering, environmental and life sciences, and the humanities. It is the very foundation for spurring technological progress. We ask Congress to restore federal funding for government agencies conducting basic research at universities and colleges such as the NIH, NSF, DoD, NASA and DoE, NIST, NEA, and NEH.

  • Research from UT Austin brings in more than $724 million to the Texas economy, the equivalent of almost 12,000 jobs.
  • In 2013, UT Austin received approximately 73 percent of its research funding from federal sources. 
  • UT Austin professor John Goodenough conducted pioneering work that lead to the invention of the lithium-ion battery. He developed critical materials needed to power portable electronics, initiating the wireless revolution. Today more than 3 billion batteries are produced every year—this technology is vital to powering medical implants, tablets, and smartphones.
  • Funding provided by the National Institutes of Health is currently helping researchers at UT Austin develop techniques for imaging and manipulating the activity of neurons in the brain. These techniques will help explore the mechanisms of addiction, obesity, fear, and many other brain states and disorders.
  • A team of researchers funded by NSF grants in the Cockrell School of Engineering has invented a method for producing inexpensive and high-performing wearable patches that can continuously monitor the body’s vital signs for human health and performance tracking, potentially outperforming traditional monitoring tools such as cardiac event monitors.

Financial Aid: Adequately fund student financial aid programs

It is a national priority to address the exponential growth of student indebtedness. Programs such as the Pell Grant and Federal Work-Study contribute directly toward a student’s ability to graduate debt-free from a public institution of higher learning. We ask Congress to provide full funding for all federal financial aid programs in order to ensure that our universities are accessible to everyone and that we have a skilled workforce prepared to address the problems of tomorrow. 

  • Over 40 million Americans are working to repay more than $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt.
  • On average, graduating Longhorns incur close to $25,000 in debt.
  • As of the 2012-13 school year, the percentage of first-time, full-time, degree-seeking undergraduate students at 4-year degree-granting institutions receiving any financial aid was 85 percent.

2015 State Legislative Priorities

84th Session

Base Funding: Restore cuts made to base formula funding in recent budgets

Base funding, also known as formula funding, is the primary source of funding for the two most important functions of the university: teaching and supporting student success. In 2011, higher education suffered substantial cuts to base funding levels, only some of which were restored in 2013. When state funding does not keep up with the costs of a quality education, the financial burden shifts to students, donors, and the institution, or quality suffers dramatically. Our priority in the 2015 session is to receive adequate funding so that UT Austin can continue to compete with the best in the country.

Capital Investment: Welch Hall renovation

UT Austin is committed to providing students with the best facilities, resources, and programs possible. During this legislative session, Texas Exes is focused on state investment in one campus infrastructure project. The university is requesting $100 million for the College of Natural Sciences Master Space plan. Welch Hall at UT provides space for 10,000 students daily. The faculty working in the building generated $12 million of the College of Natural Science’s $87 million in research awards from 2013-14. Yet the facilities in Welch Hall are sorely outdated. These renovations will allow for curricula not currently feasible with outdated equipment and will keep UT competitive in recruiting faculty. They will also ensure that adequate study space is available for students in such an integral part of the campus.

Tier-One Research and Innovation: Supporting Texas Research Initiatives

We would like to see state research funds be a dependable resource that fuels innovative and groundbreaking research at UT Austin. Support for our public Tier-One institutions is paramount to keep our state strong. Funding that provides for faculty, facilities, and equipment is crucial to the university’s research mission. These performance-based incentives allow UT Austin to compete nationally in recruiting and retain the highest performing faculty for students. In the past two years, UT Austin has generated $40 million from licensing technology. Additionally, funding research incentives are an investment in the businesses, patents, and medical advances that keep Texas competitive.

Governance: Promoting policies in line with best practices from around the nation

We call on the Legislature to further define appropriate university governance through legislation, and to thoroughly review nominees to the Board of Regents. In developing policies that uphold and promote the values of the UT System, regents are expected to be collaborative leaders who are free of conflicts. Administrators should manage the daily business of each institution. We support policies and actions that ensure those charged with looking over our institution are doing so in accordance with best practices and that there are strong measures of transparency in place.

Guns on campus: Keep UT Austin safe

Should the Texas Legislature enact a law that would expand gun rights on university campuses, Texas Exes supports a provision that would give university administrators discretion in implementing the law. Every academic environment is different. Each institution should have flexibility in ensuring its faculty, staff, and students remain safe.

Top 10 Percent: Extending the UT Austin cap

The Texas Exes endorses the continuation of a 75 percent cap for incoming freshmen admitted to UT Austin under the Top 10 Percent Law. Flexibility is key for the state’s flagship university to create a diverse and outstanding student body. With a 75 percent limit, the university can attract the best students Texas has to offer alongside talented students from the rest of the world while maintaining affordability and keeping class sizes as small as possible. Failure to reform the law could result in overwhelming class sizes and skyrocketing costs.