Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
November 13, 2008
Contact: Tina Tran, 713-236-0306

Senator Rodney Ellis Expresses Disappointment Over Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Decision to Adopt Recommendation Adding Additional Eligibility Requirements for the TEXAS Grant Program

Houston, TX (November 13, 2008) - Senator Rodney Ellis expressed disappointment in today's Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) decision to adopt a recommendation with modifications that could potentially prevent thousands of students from obtaining the financial assistance they need for tuition and fees by adding additional components for eligibility to the TEXAS Grant program as early as 2010. The recommendation, which would be implemented over the next few years, is contingent upon receiving additional funding for community college students and retaining the current level of funding for the TEXAS Grant program.

"The board's adoption of this proposal is a giant step backwards in the struggle to provide more Texans with access to educational opportunities. We are in the midst of the greatest economic struggle most Texas families have faced in decades--a time when we need to prepare more Texans to compete in a more competitive global economy. This recommendation will shut the door in the faces of our most vulnerable students. I don't see how excluding them, the very students who need aid the most, from the state's largest financial aid program at a time when we've raised college tuition by an average of at least 53% in the last 5 years helps open the doors of college opportunity to more of our young people. In fact, those are the students who need financial assistance the most because they are from households that don't have the resources for tutors and test prep classes to help them succeed. Those students, the students who wouldn't otherwise have access to higher education, have been the greatest beneficiaries of the TEXAS Grant program since I helped author it almost 10 years ago. Those are the students who should remain the beneficiaries today. If the board wants to develop a strategy to increase success, it should develop more initiatives to collaborate with early education leaders. Cost-saving strategies should be left to the Texas Legislature."

Since the recommendation proposing additional merit requirements was proposed over the summer, Senator Ellis and other state leaders have expressed concern that the new merit components would decrease the number of students receiving grant aid, particularly, first-generation and low-income students attending colleges and universities in the state. Since the inception of the program in 1999, Senator Ellis has advocated fully funding the grant program.

In the 2007 fiscal year, the TEXAS Grant program awarded 52,585 students $175,030,246 in grant aid. That accounts for only about half of the students who were eligible to receive the award. According to the THECB Report on Student Financial Aid in Texas Higher Education for Fiscal Year 2007, with constant funding, the program will face a $246,376,031 shortfall, leaving 66,262 students unable to enter the program in 2010.

THECB staff explicitly stated that TEXAS Grant recipients do just as well as, if not better, than students who have not received the award. The board's presentation today indicated that the additional requirements would only increase graduation success rates by 3.6% as compared to the 39% of students from all five quintiles who will not meet the adopted criteria from non-flagship institutions; the 38% of students who will not meet the adopted criteria from Hispanic serving institutions; and the 59% of students who will not meet the adopted criteria from African American serving institutions.