KENT HANCE: Budget cuts threaten universities' mission

Go San Angelo - SAN ANGELO, Texas — Because of the impact of the worldwide recession, the state of Texas is facing a significant budget revenue gap in the 2012-2013 biennium. A reduction in available revenue has led to a budget deficit and projections have been made estimating a shortfall between $18 billion and $27 billion.

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Because of the impact of the worldwide recession, the state of Texas is facing a significant budget revenue gap in the 2012-2013 biennium. A reduction in available revenue has led to a budget deficit and projections have been made estimating a shortfall between $18 billion and $27 billion.

Recognizing the seriousness of the budgetary constraints, reductions must be made and spending needs to be limited. Over the last year, the Texas Tech University System has identified ways to reduce costs and has worked to return nearly $37.5 million to the state in the last two years.

We understand additional reductions will be necessary and will do our part to help address this deficit. However, the state's economic challenges should be borne equally by all government entities, and not unduly, as it has previously fallen on higher education's shoulders.

Early last year, most state agencies were instructed to cut their current biennial spending by 5 percent, and higher education institutions honored this request by returning more than $518 million to the state. However, some state programs, including welfare services and some sectors of prison funding, were exempt from the budget cuts.

As a result, universities in Texas suffered a disproportionate share of these cuts. Higher education institutions, which represent only 12.5 percent of the current state budget, carried the heaviest burden when compared to all other state agencies, amounting to 41 percent of the required reductions returned.

Despite these initial spending reductions, an additional 2.5 percent in cuts was recently requested. These cuts have made operating more and more difficult and further cuts are expected during a time when enrollment at Texas colleges and universities has reached record numbers.

In fall 2010, the component institutions of the Texas Tech University System each celebrated enrollment records, totaling more than 42,000 students. Enrollment across the Texas Tech University System has increased by approximately 48 percent since fall 2000, and efforts are under way to reach 40,000 students at Texas Tech University, 5,000 students at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and 10,000 students at Angelo State University by 2020.

As each institution's funding sources have shifted and been reduced by recently mandated cuts, efficiencies have been achieved to minimize the impact on students and patients.

While it is still early in this legislative session, Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1 both propose severe cuts to higher education institutions for the next biennium.

We will be forced to reconsider workforce and workload critical to our mission, which brings even greater concern to our organization and other university systems as it is our role to produce the working professionals who develop new knowledge and support economic prosperity and growth.

Higher education in Texas needs to remain open, accessible and affordable as we help the state prosper by producing graduates who pay taxes and create jobs.

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