Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
Monday, February 17, 2003
Contact: Mike Lavigne, (512) 463-0113, (512) 463-8368

Senator Decries Cuts to TEXAS Grant Program

Austin, TX// State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) decried what he called " a full frontal assault on higher education" today.

In a House Appropriations hearing today Don Brown of the Higher Education Coordinating Board outlined deep cuts in the TEXAS Grant program made necessary by the Legislative Budget Board's budget recommendation.

"We made a promise not to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. This revelation breaks that promise. With reductions this drastic, we are breaking a promise to students who already are in college and who depend on this money just to stay in school," said Senator Ellis.

The Higher Education Coordinating board projects that, based on need only, $462,857,335 would be necessary to continue the current level and projected growth in the need based college scholarship program. The Legislative Budget Board (LBB) set a recommended biannual appropriation level of $268,001,403.

The difference in need and recommended budget levels is $194,855,932. This large of shortfall would result in massive numbers of students not receiving the necessary money for college.

Based just on the difference between the Higher Education Coordinating Board Legislative Appropriation Request ($340,839,886) and the LBB recommendation, over 20,000 students a year would have the doors of higher education slammed shut on them. Senator Ellis continued, "If education is really a priority in this state we need to look elsewhere for places to cut. The message should be clear from Texans, 'Hands off the kids' college money'."

In 1999, Senator Ellis authored legislation creating the TEXAS Grant Program. The program was modeled after Georgia's HOPE Scholarship program. In order to be eligible for a TEXAS Grant students must have completed college preparatory courses in high school and maintain a 2.5 GPA or better in college. In 2001, Senator Ellis tripled funding for the program, increasing investment to $300 million and providing TEXAS Grants to nearly 65,000 students.

Texas lags in the percent of 9th graders completing high school and entering college. Among the ten most populous states, Texas ranks eighth, with 32%,. New Jersey has 54% of 9th graders completing high school and entering college. Illinois has 49% and New York has 44%.

The difference in income for a high school graduate and college graduate over a 40-year working life is $1.2 million.