Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
April 6, 2005
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Ellis: House Budget Lesser of Two Evils on TEXAS Grants

Ellis praises Rep. Gallego for his effort to save TEXAS Grants

(Austin, Texas)//Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), the former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, today called the budget passed by the House the "lesser of two evils, but it's still evil" when it comes to funding for the TEXAS Grant program. Ellis praised the efforts of Representative Pete Gallego (D-Alpine) to fully fund the TEXAS Grant program.

"It has become old hat for politicians to talk about the importance of getting a college education," said Ellis. "When it comes to actually investing in our college students, Texas is all talk. The House plan is the lesser of two evils, but it's still evil."

Under the current budget, the TEXAS Grant program is funded at $324 million and serves 63,834 students. The House version of SB 1 allocates $322 million over the biennium for the TEXAS Grant program compared to only $294 million in the budget passed by the Senate in March. The House plan would reduce the number of students receiving TEXAS Grants by 11,300, while the Senate plan would reduce the number of students receiving TEXAS Grants by 15,000.

Representative Gallego offered an amendment to provide a TEXAS Grant to every Texas child eligible. Gallego's amendment would have increased funding to $524 million for the biennium, which would provide a TEXAS Grant to 91,000 students. The amendment was tabled by a vote of 89-56

"I cannot offer enough praise to the efforts of Representative Gallego," said Ellis. "Representative Gallego fought to ensure that the door to opportunity is open for every young Texan that wants to walk through it. Texas students and their families should be thankful of Representative Gallego's continued leadership on this and all higher education issues. It is a shame his effort fell just short because this issue is vital to Texas' future."

Budget cuts are not the true measure of just how far Texas is slipping in providing aid for students. Last year, the combination of budget cuts and skyrocketing tuition, as a result of tuition deregulation, dropped 22,000 students from the TEXAS Grant program. Education analysts believe tuition costs will continue to rise over the next two years, potentially cutting thousands more students from the program.

Created in 1999, the TEXAS Grant program provides tuition and fees for qualified Texans to go to a public or private college in Texas. As Texas struggles to meet the challenges of a growingly diverse population, the TEXAS Grant program has proven to be the best plan to help close the gap between minority students and Anglos. Of the total grants funded, 64,000, or 46 percent, have gone to Hispanic students, and 18,000 grants, or 13 percent, have gone to African American students. Overall, 115,000 students have received 235,000 grants totaling over $648 million to go to college in Texas.

"Five years ago we promised that we were going to take measures to close the gap between Hispanics, African Americans and Anglos," said Ellis. "Make no mistake about it, we're widening the gap. We are limiting opportunity for thousands of young Texans and limiting the future of this state. That is the wrong priority for Texas and it is going to cost us."

(For more information on SB 1, please contact Kurt Meachum with Representative Pete Gallego at (512)463-0566)