Tuition grants at risk in proposed cuts

By Daniel C. Houston

Students attending Baylor and other private colleges and universities could stand to lose up to 41 percent of state grant and work-study program funding, according to a recommendation by the Texas Legislative Budget Board.

The proposed budget includes an $87.4 million cutback in tuition equalization grants, which are need-based scholarships given to students who attend private institutions of higher education. State work-study funding would be cut by $6.1 million, leaving $8.9 million in subsidies for part-time student jobs at public and private institutions across the state.

“It’s an extensive document, more than 900 pages long,” Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, said. “We are still reviewing the document and will be for quite some time to identify areas that impact Baylor. At this time, we don’t know the specific impact of proposed reductions in funding. In the course of a legislative session, a bill will evolve from January to May, but we will continue to study the bill to determine how it will impact our students.”

Even though all of the ramifications of the proposed budget cuts are still being explored, Fogleman stressed the importance of the tuition equalization grants.

“What we do know is that the TEG is a very important program for students who have financial need and desire to attend Baylor,” Fogleman said. “More than 3,200 Baylor students received the TEG award this year. Awards vary due to need, but the maximum award is $5,712. So it’s an important program that benefits our students.”

These cuts have been proposed within the broader context of a $156.4 billion operating budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal period. This represents “a $31.1 billion, or 16.6 percent, decrease,” according to the official summary of the board’s proposal.

Gov. Rick Perry, recently elected to his third full term of office, called for addressing the anticipated budget deficit without raising taxes Tuesday in his inaugural address.

“We must cut spending to keep our economic engine on track,” Perry said. “As legislators do the hard work of trimming agency budgets, the headlines will be dominated by impacted constituencies; but these tough times dictate government doing more with less.”

Although Baylor’s status as a private institution insulates it from broad-based cuts to the budgets of public schools like the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University, some Baylor students who are Texas residents or National Merit Finalists may still be affected.

Carey Wallick, a law student from Rowlett, has been receiving tuition equalization grant money since his freshman year as an undergraduate at Baylor and is skeptical of the proposal to scale down the program.

“I think it makes less people able to attend college,” Wallick said. “At a certain point, there’s only so much you can do outside of loans and grants and scholarships. If you hit your limit, that could be the drop-off point where you can no longer attend. So I guess my reaction would be negative; I would rather they don’t cut funding.”

Although Wallick has not participated in state or federal work-study programs in the past, he said he would “look negatively upon” reducing funding for them as well.

“The more opportunities out there for funding students’ education, the better,” Wallick said. “From a first-person point of view, I don’t have any experience with it, but I know many people who have, and they need every dollar coming in.”

As of press time, Baylor’s director of governmental relations, Rochonda Farmer-Neal, was not available to elaborate on whether or how Baylor would respond to the proposed budget cuts.