Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
April 28, 2005
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Senate Passes Ellis Legislation to Find Additional Funding Sources for TEXAS Grants

(Austin, Texas)//The Texas Senate today passed SB 1553, legislation by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) which will help find additional revenue sources to fund the TEXAS Grant program.

Senate Bill 1553 allows the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to generate and distribute additional revenue from corporations, foundations and private citizens to assist in funding TEXAS Grants. Under the legislation, a corporation, foundation or private citizen could donate funds or property to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to be dedicated to the TEXAS Grant program. In addition, the legislation requires the Coordinating Board to conduct a study to identify other alternative funding in order to boost investment to the 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 not doing enough. This legislation will help foster public-private partnerships to raise additional money for Texas students to go to college."

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.

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. "We've made progress, but lack of funding is keeping us from helping more young Texans go to college. This bill is just an innovative way to bring more Texans into the process and help open the door to opportunity for every student that we can."