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May 22, 2002     (512) 463-0300

Committee Continues the Study of Higher Ed Funding

AUSTIN - The Joint Interim Committee on Higher Education Excellence Funding met today, May 22, 2002, to continue debate on higher education funding.

The committee was created by House Bill 1839, and is in charge of reviewing the current higher education funding formulas. The committee must also examine the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's procedures and recommendations regarding these formulas.

Lieutenant Governor Bill Ratliff appeared as a witness, proposing a potential formula for funding based on semester credit hours taken by students in each institution. Ratliff gave detailed numbers, taking into consideration operation support, teacher experience (which would reward the placement of teachers instead of graduate students in charge of classes), and reimbursable costs (school expenses that the state should reimburse, like electrical power, insurance premiums, worker compensation, and student grants). The lieutenant governor talked about the public perception that most of the money goes to the two top institutions, leaving behind the ones with less prestige.

Don Brown, Commissioner of the Higher Education Coordinating Board, made a presentation on formula funding recommendations for the 2004-2005 state budget. The recommendations consider inflation and enrollment growth. The highest increase would be for community colleges. Brown explained how state financing of higher education is based on formulas, depending on the institutions space, its infrastructure, its relation to the number of students, and the credit hours students pay for. The debate continues about whether to start using a unified formula instead of different formulas depending on the institution. Currently there is a single consideration or "ladder" for institutions of higher learning, whether they do research or not.

The joint committee is co-chaired by Senator Steve Ogden and Representative Robert Junell. Its Senate members are Gonzalo Barrientos, Chris Harris, John Whitmire and Ken Armbrister. The members from the House are Representatives Helen Giddings, Jim McReynolds, Senfronia Thompson and Irma Rangel. The committee recessed subject to the call of the chair.

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