Still squeezing the college kids

You may have noticed last week – among the bursts of craziness from the State Board of Education – the news reports that the state’s top three leaders decided against making cuts in already underfunded college financial aid programs. But hold your applause, please, because college students (current and future) and their parents will remain major victims of Texas’ budgetary shortfall.

Unless the tuition deregulation law – which passed the buck for higher education funding from the elected Legislature and governor to unelected university regents is repealed, tuition at state supported universities will continue to rise. Gov. Rick Perry, who signed the law in 2003, wants to keep it. It’s a lot easier (on him and lawmakers) than enacting a strong, dependable revenue source.

Middleclass families will continue to be squeezed because state financial aid is mainly reserved for lowerincome students. But many of them will suffer too because there isn’t enough aid to go around, a longtime problem that Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes discussed in a speech in Irving yesterday.

At present, the state has a firstcome, firstserved approach to distributing aid under the needbased TEXAS Grant program, but that must change, Paredes said. He wants the Legislature to change the rules to give priority to the lowincome applicants with the strongest academic records.

“We want to put these students at the front of the line and say, ‘If you want a TEXAS Grant, work for it,’” he told a group of business and education leaders, as reported in The Dallas Morning News.

Paredes’ proposal isn’t new, but it may receive more attention as legislators struggle with a projected $18 billion revenue shortfall next year.

To receive priority, students would have to graduate from high school with college credit or through the state’s distinguished achievement program. They also would have to meet one of the following criteria: have a “B” average; be deemed collegeready, based on a test; or graduate in the top onethird of their high school class.

More than 69,000 students will receive about $274 million in grants in 2010, with an average award of about $3,900. A family of four has to earn less than $45,000 a year to qualify. Thousands of eligible students aren’t receiving help because the state hasn’t appropriated enough money.

Here is a link to the Dallas News story:

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/city/coppell_vr/stories/DNhighered_26met.ART.State.Edition1.498e683.html

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