Recent Developments in Higher Education
The total appropriation for higher education in Texas for the 2016–2017 biennium is $19.9 billion, an increase of $1.4 billion over the 2014–2015 biennium. General Revenue and General Revenue-Dedicated funds (GR and GR-D) increased by $1.5 billion (9.1 percent) to $17.4 billion. Fiscal Year 16–17 runs from Sept. 1, 2015, through Aug. 31, 2017.
The FY 16–17 appropriation for general academic institutions is $6.82 billion, an increase of $398.8 million (or 6.2 percent) over FY 14–15. Health-related institutions appropriation increased by about $178.4 million to $3.04 billion, a 6.2-percent increase. All funding for public two-year institutions decreased by $11.5 million (or 0.6 percent) due to a decline in contact hours.
The total appropriation for the entire state for FY 16–17 is $209.4 billion, an increase of $7.3 billion, or 3.6 percent, over 14–15 funding levels.
In the FY 16–17 budget, higher education will represent 9.5 percent of the entire budget and 15.2 percent of the General Revenue and General Revenue Dedicated budget.
Actions of the 84th Legislature, 2015
Below are bills passed by the 84th Legislature that affect higher education in Texas.
HB 3348 creates a pilot program to offer a community college baccalaureate in dental hygiene at Tyler Junior College. It was signed by the governor.
HB 100 authorizes $3.1 billion in tuition revenue bonds for 64 projects at public universities, health-related institutions, and state and technical colleges. It was signed by the governor.
SB 11 regarding firearms on college campuses was signed by the governor. The final language states that institutions may not adopt a general rule to prohibit licensed holders from carrying handguns on the campus, except that they may establish “reasonable” restrictions on where firearms may be permitted on campus and how they may be stored.
HB 700 repeals the B-On-Time Loan Repayment Program (BOT) from statute. It was signed by the governor. The legislation limits BOT to renewal students only, beginning in academic year 2015–2016, and abolishes the program entirely in 2020.
SB 18 makes key revisions to streamline and improve the efficiency of existing Graduate Medical Education (GME) programs and sets up a Permanent Fund Supporting GME from funds transferred from the Texas Medical Liability Insurance Underwriting Association. Funds from the permanent fund would be used to support GME programs established by SB 18.
HB 2628 directs the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to periodically review each Field of Study curriculum. Approved Fields of Study curricula provide a statewide guarantee of transfer of course credits to any public college or university in Texas, and further promises that the courses in the approved Field of Study will apply to a student’s relevant degree program. The legislation also directs the agency to develop Programs of Study by assembling advisory committees to identify the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to prepare students for high-skill, high-wage jobs in high-demand occupations.
SB 632 creates a “Governor’s University Research Initiative Fund” (GURIF) as a dedicated account in the general revenue fund. Monies placed in the GURIF are to be allocated by the Texas Economic Development and Tourism Office within the Office of the Governor. The Office will award matching grants to assist eligible institutions in recruiting distinguished researchers, preferentially but not exclusively in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Actions of the 83rd Legislature, 2013
The 83rd Texas Legislature approved critical legislation that will change the way higher education does business. Innovative legislative strategies to improve student outcomes and increase institutional productivity were approved including:
SB 1 implements outcomes-based funding for community colleges (Student Success Points) and technical colleges (Returned Value Funding Model), and increases funding for the TEXAS Grant program to $724 million, which represents the largest total dollar appropriation since the program began in 1999. Funding to expand graduate Medical Education was also appropriated.
SB 24 combines The University of Texas Brownsville and The University of Texas Pan American to create a new general academic teaching institution that includes a medical school.
SB 215 makes the TEXAS Grant program a university-only program and creates an additional pathway into the program for specific community college transfer students. The legislation also makes the B-On-Time loan program a university-only program and provides institutions with flexibility to set the award amount to maximize the number of zero-interest loans that can be issued.
SB 215 also implements a cap for the number of hours required for an associate's degree to no more than that required by licensure or accrediting requirements in an effort to improve time-to-degree (typically 60 semester credit hours).
SB 441 requires the Texas Workforce Commission to collaborate with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and public community and technical colleges to identify and develop methods to support competency-based, rapid-deployment education delivery models aligned with local and regional workforce needs.
SB 1210 requires students who receive tuition and fee exemption or waivers for higher education to meet basic academic progress requirements to maintain eligibility.
HB 5 makes substantial changes to the public high school curriculum and reduces the number of state assessments required from 15 to 5. Students must choose one of five endorsements to complete, in addition to the new Foundation Graduation Plan, upon entering 9th grade. All endorsements require four math credits and four science credits. A student may also graduate with a Distinguished Level of Achievement Plan which requires Algebra II and is required for Top 10 percent Automatic Admissions into a public university in Texas.
HB 29 requires public universities to offer a fixed tuition price plan under which the institution agrees not to increase tuition charges per semester credit hour.
HB 2036 creates the Texas 2036 Commission to identify future higher education and workforce needs.
HB 2549 requires the Coordinating Board and the Texas Education Agency to periodically review the College and Career Readiness Standards.
HB 2550 and HB 1025 create new programs to help entities: plan for new Graduate Medical Education programs; fill unfilled positions; create new residencies; and develop innovative programs to increase the number of primary care physicians.
Actions of the 82nd Legislature, 2011
The 82nd Texas Legislature approved critical legislation that will change the way higher education does business. Innovative legislative strategies to improve student outcomes and increase institutional productivity were approved including:
SB 28, known as the Texas Grant Priority Model or the Texas Grant College Readiness Reform Act, will improve the state’s return on investment by prioritizing awards to financially needy high school students whose academic efforts make them well-prepared to complete a college degree. (This legislation will go into effect in fall 2013.)
HB 9 moves Texas a step closer to implementing outcomes-based funding for two-year and four-year institutions of higher education by requiring the Higher Education Coordinating Board to recommend to the Legislature student success-based funding formulas that are aligned with the state’s education goals and economic development needs.
HB 1000 provides a methodology for the distribution of funds from the National Research University Fund (NRUF) to emerging research universities.
HB 3025 implements cost efficiency recommendations designed to help facilitate timely degree completion by requiring students to file a degree plan not later than earning 45 semester credit hours and requiring institutions to send transcripts of eligible transfer students back to the lower division institution for the awarding of an Associate’s degree, called “reverse transfer.”
SB 851 will send students a clear and uniform message regarding financial aid processes and implement a statewide deadline for financial aid. The provisions of the legislation apply beginning with financial assistance awarded for the 2013–2014 academic year.
The passage of HB 1244 will help the Coordinating Board implement changes to reform a developmental education system that is failing students. This legislation requires the Board to prescribe standards for each Texas Success Initiative assessment instrument to measure student readiness and align the delivery of developmental education. In addition, HB 1244 requires institutions to provide a range of coursework options, including online and non-course based remediation to get students on a faster track toward degree attainment.
SB 1799 and SJR 50 help expand access during these challenging budgetary times by increasing the Coordinating Board’s College Access Loans bonding capacity to meet expected loan demand. These loans are competitive and offer the lowest rates in the country, which are 5.25% for fall 2011. This legislation and constitutional amendment, upon approval of voters, will provide students additional options for paying for college.
Actions of the 81st Legislature, 2009
HB 51 was a major piece of legislation intended to raise the excellence of public universities and develop, fund and maintain major research universities in Texas.
SB 175 authorized The University of Texas at Austin to place a cap on the number of students admitted under the Top Ten Percent Law. Beginning with the 2011–2012 academic year, UT-Austin is not required to offer admission to applicants qualifying under the Top Ten Percent Law in excess of the number needed to fill 75 percent of enrollment capacity for first-time resident undergraduate students.
HB 3 established two performance standards for high school end-of-course examinations: a standard performance and, for Algebra II and English III, a college readiness performance standard.
SB 956 authorized the board of the University of North Texas System to establish and operate a school of law in Dallas as a professional school of the system.
SB 98 established The University of Texas Health Science Center-South Texas, which includes The University of Texas Medical School-South Texas. The UT System was directed to convert the current Lower Rio Grande Valley Regional Academic Health Center to The University of Texas Health Science Center-South Texas as a component institution of the system.
SB 629 removed statutory barriers to the establishment of three new universities that had been operating as system centers: Texas A&M-San Antonio, Texas A&M-Central Texas and University of North Texas at Dallas.