State Colleges Stave Off Threatened Budget Cuts, Tuition Freeze

The Texas House of Representatives blocked Senate proposals that could have bled the finances of public universities.

Texas universities spent much of the 85th legislative session under the threat of steep funding cuts. In the end, they managed to dodge them, but at a cost to students.

Between 2003 and 2016, tuition and fees climbed nearly 150 percent. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick responded at a press conference in April of last year, saying, “This has to end. People did not send us here to Austin to allow our universities to raise tuitions five times higher than their salaries.”

Enter Senate Bill 19. The bill would have frozen tuition and fees at state schools for the next four years. With revenues down, there was a strong expectation the budget would slash state spending on higher education as well. The combined effect could have proved devastating for college finances.

“I think the higher ed institutions came out much better than they had anticipated they might,” says State Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin), who sits on the House higher education committee. She’s pleased that SB 19 died in the House. And she notes that, in the end, the budget included a slight increase for higher ed spending, particularly for community colleges.

“Overall, though, we are still funding all of our higher education institutions at a lower level than previous high-water marks,” Howard says.

And if schools are relieved, students now have even more reason to dread their next letter from the billing office.


Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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