Editor’s note: This story is corrected from the published version to include more accurate dollar figures.
23 percent budget cut less than expected
By Daniel C. Houston
After a five-month legislative struggle in Austin in which the Baylor administration was an active lobbying force, steep budgetary cuts to the Tuition Equalization Grant program (TEG) have hit Baylor graduate students and incoming freshmen the hardest.
The cuts resulted in a $2.9 million — or 23 percent — drop from previous levels in Baylor’s share of the TEG, which now totals $9.6 million according to a July 6 university press release. Baylor, which has discretion over the allocation of the remaining funds, has made the decision to continue offering the grant to all returning undergraduate students who meet the program’s eligibility requirements, significantly limiting the options of incoming freshman to receive the grant and leaving graduate students without access to TEG funding at all.
“We believe that it’s important to use the resources available to help those who are already midstream, who are already committed, who have already invested a year or two of their lives toward obtaining a Baylor degree,” Jackie Diaz, assistant vice president for student financial services, said.
Because the Texas Legislative Budget Board’s original proposal in January called for a 41-percent reduction in grant funding, and other proposals called for axing the program altogether, President Ken Starr said he is grateful the cuts were not worse.
“It was part of our message to the governor of the state that higher education is empowering and we need to make this available as broadly as we can,” Starr said. “And regardless of political party and philosophy, legislators for four decades have felt that [the TEG] is an important and wise investment of funds.”
Both Starr and Diaz expressed gratitude to the alumni and students who, prompted earlier this year by a Baylor public relations campaign, called their representatives in the legislature and requested the TEG funding levels be preserved.
Starr also praised the Baylor Ambassadors, a student organization that lobbies on behalf of Baylor, and the work of members of the Board of Regents, particularly that of Buddy Jones, chair of the board and a prominent professional lobbyist with HillCo Partners in Austin.
Carey Wallick, a third-year law student from Rowlett who has received TEG grants since his time as a Baylor undergraduate student, recently discovered he will not be eligible to receive the grant this year. While the cuts have not adversely affected his ability to finish his degree at Baylor Law School, Wallick said he had to adjust for the loss in grant funding by going further into debt.
“It will add up,” Wallick said, “but as long as I get employed, the impact of this one loss shouldn’t kill me or anything. It’s just going to be more money in loans, more interest on loans, more total indebtedness.”
Wallick said he would have preferred the university proportionally reduce the amount of TEG funding for which each individual student is eligible, rather than prioritizing funding for any particular group. This way, he said, each person who was eligible for the previous award would at least have access to a smaller amount.
“But I can see how, in order to preserve the undergraduate programs, that they would focus more on them and then say graduate students will just have to bite the bullet and receive alternative funding,” Wallick said.
Starr said he is cognizant of the burden the reduction in TEG funding will place upon students with need, especially those from minority ethnic backgrounds which comprise 52 percent of all TEG recipients, according to the Texas Legislative Budget Board.
He highlighted the importance of the President’s Scholarship Initiative, which he announced had raised $32 million on the path to its $100 million goal, in providing for students who now find themselves without grant funding upon which they had previously relied.
“At this stage we’re not asking for sacrificial giving,” Starr said. “We’re asking for generous giving, as generous as people can be. And that’s the way that we have been moving forward on making up for the shortfall created by a huge loss in the TEG.”