Enrollment growth dictates legislative priorities for Texas State

News Reporter

The Texas 84th Legislative session has begun, and university officials hope to receive more funding as enrollment continues to rise.

Texas educators will take concerns and proposals to their districts’ representatives during legislative sessions, and the delegates will present them before Congress.

The Higher Education Assistance Fund (HEAF), which is granted to state public universities, is at stake. This fund would not go to the University of Texas and Texas A&M, which collect their own grants from the state exclusively. The amount allotted is chosen once every decade and reevaluated every five, said Bill Nance, vice president of Finance and Support Services.

The university was last evaluated in 2010 and is due for a new allotment of funds. University officials hope the spike in student population will mean additional funding for Texas State, Nance said.

The university has experienced a spike in enrollment in the last five years, Nance said. Nance anticipates a funding increase between $3 million and $8 million per year depending on which Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) proposal is passed into legislature.

Nance said gaining the financial support necessary to construct two new academic buildings is a priority for the university. Texas State needs an increase in tuition revenue bonds in order to fund construction of the buildings, Nance said.

“We are planning two buildings—an engineering and science building for the San Marcos campus and a health professionals building for the Round Rock campus,” he said.

Many universities and colleges in the state pushed for bills to fund new buildings during the last legislative session, he said. However, they failed the day before the session ended. Nance is hopeful the bill paving the way for new buildings will pass during the 84th session.

“We’re really hoping for support to build these new buildings this time around,” said Eugene Bourgeois, university provost.

Building new facilities on campus is imperative in order for the university to keep up with a rising student population, Bourgeois said.

“Recent growth in enrollment means we’ve run out of space,” Nance said. “The engineering program is full—completely out of space—and they cannot take any more admissions.”

Bourgeois agrees with Nance, acknowledging the growing health and nursing programs need more space. Constructing a new building at the Round Rock campus is the first step toward moving the entire program there, Bourgeois said.

Nance said other priorities include government evaluations of the Hazelwood Act and the Hazelwood Legacy Act—programs that allow veterans and their children to attend college for free.

Universities are responsible for the tuition costs for veterans under the Hazelwood Act, Nance said.

“It’s a fantastic program,” Nance said. “Last year alone, $16 million in tuition and fees were awarded, and we’re estimated another $18 million this year.”

An estimated $1 million was covered by the state last year, leaving the university to pay for the rest, Nance said. Texas State officials hope the state will start paying for those waivers.

“We believe the state should fund it,” Nance said. “If this bill passes, they’ll be responsible for much closer to 100 percent.”

Nance hopes the legislation will produce more financial aid funding.

“Right now we’re giving less aid then we were once able to,” Nance said. “A great deal of that is because of larger enrollment than before and less money than before.”

Nance and Bourgeois can agree an improved infrastructure on campus and more financial aid will help the university continue to grow and thrive. 

The 84th legislative session began Jan. 13 and will last 140 days. Local representatives have until March 13 to submit bills. Congress will vote through June 1 on proposed bills. June 21 is the last day for Governor Greg Abbott to veto bills passed during the session. Bills passed during legislative session will take effect Aug. 31 unless otherwise stated.