Editorial: Protect the TEG

Time and time again editorial pages, news stories and press conferences have started out with some mention of the state’s lack-luster financial situation and the inevitability of reining in spending.

State legislators are taking blind hacks at small programs — and in their path is the Texas Equalization Grant, an initiative that provides funds to first-generation and minority students for their college tuition.

The proposal cuts the total allotment of TEG funds by 41.5 percent.

For Fiscal Year 2011, the state spent $102 million on the TEG. Of that, Baylor was awarded $12.3 million. The cut would eliminate more than $42 million from that budget, a slash that would affect 3,200 current Baylor students and, eventually, private higher education across the state.

Fifty-two percent of Baylor students awarded the TEG identify themselves as minorities. If funds are cut, private schools will see a decrease in the number of students financially able to attend — despite their academic capabilities.

Nearly 700 of the 3,200 Baylor students that have capitalized on the TEG have no way of paying for college aside from financial aid. In fact, it can be assumed that with the TEG cut almost in half, some students will no longer be able to attend Baylor.

More than 38 percent of all TEG recipients have no capacity to pay a portion of their college costs — meaning those individuals have an estimated family contribution below $1,000.

It is not logical to cut the TEG, a program that actually saves the state money. It costs the state $4,175 more for a public university student than for a private university student.

Taxpayers would have paid more than $232 million in fiscal year 2009 had TEG recipients enrolled in public universities.

Therefore, if the state were to cut the TEG, more students would not have the option of attending a private university and would instead rely more heavily on the state for public education support.

Private universities like Baylor look to extend scholarships to each of its attendees.

According to the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas Inc., its member institutions provided more than $506 million in non-governmental financial assistance to students. That’s nearly five times the amount awarded by the TEG.

At Baylor specifically, students that are accepted are awarded a scholarship based on their ranking and test scores. There are also numerous other scholarship opportunities afforded to Baylor students.

Baylor has increased its scholarship endeavors, most recently with the President’s Scholarship Initiative set to raise $100 million for students.

If the TEG is cut, however, private universities and the state suffer a major setback.

The funds raised by the schools for scholarships have to cover more of the students’ costs in order to retain the students and the state has to dish out more money for each student that won’t be able to afford a private school without the TEG.

The proposed cut is to a program whose budget accounts for less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the entire state budget. That amounts to less than 1 percent of the total higher education budget in Texas.

Students are given the chance to earn a degree from a private institution. Private universities are able to give more scholarship money to students.

Texas taxpayers are able to pay less for a student to earn a degree — a degree that prepares them for the workforce and, in turn, benefits the Texas economy.

In these dire times, the state Legislature is hunting for cuts. The TEG has fallen prey to off-the-mark scalpels and we, as a Baylor family, have to step up and fight for this program.

President Ken Starr has launched a website — Baylor.edu/saveteg — dedicated to informing people of the value of the TEG. Much of the information provided here is found at that site.

He has asked for Baylor faculty, staff, students and alumni to contact their state representatives and tell them what the TEG has done for Baylor, Texas and themselves. We advise readers to do the same.

For almost 40 years, Texas Equalization Grants have helped Texans across the state break free from the financial burdens of attending private universities like Baylor.

At the suggestion of Starr, for the concern of fellow students and for the protection of Baylor, Texans should use their right as a represented body to make their voices heard. Only through vocalizing the importance of this issue can the outcome be changed.

As students, who are most affected, we have a responsibility to protect institutions like Baylor that have helped us so much. Stand up for the TEG, students; future students like us depend on us to.