If he weren’t the lieutenant governor of Texas and in a position to do a lot of hurt to education and other public programs, Dan Patrick would be the punchline to a bad joke. As in, did you hear what Dan Patrick wants to do now?
One of Patrick’s latest brainstorms is to curb increases in college tuition by making it more difficult, if not impossible, for many low-income young people to attend college.
The idea, which The Dallas Morning News strongly rebukes in an editorial linked below, would be to eliminate the current requirement that state-supported universities set aside 20 percent of the tutition that they collect and dedicate it to financial aid for students who need the help.
The legislative majority imposed that requirement several years ago to partially take it off the hook for under-funding higher education with tax dollars. Patrick, of course, has a record of under-funding education at all levels.
According to the newspaper’s research, eliminating the tuition set-aside would save the average college student about 7 percent, or $482 a year. But it would cost some low-income students who depend on the assistance as much as $3,600 or more a year and cause many of them to drop out of college.
The program generates $345 million a year in financial aid for more than 200,000 needy students, many of them the first-generation in their families to attend college.
A spokesman for Patrick suggested the Legislature could replace the lost financial aid by appropriating more money for higher education. “The Legislature should step up and provide those funds,” the spokesman said.
That’s a good idea and a sensible way to reduce college tuition for everybody. But the problem is that Dan Patrick is probably the single biggest obstacle to the legislative majority actually stepping up and adequately funding student aid, higher education or any other public program, except maybe “border security,” whatever that is.
When it comes to programs that benefit most Texans, Patrick’s middle name is “Cut.” As far as he is concerned, if that hurts the needy and our state’s future, too bad.
And that’s no joke.