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Old Posted Aug 21, 2010, 7:07 PM
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max7 max7 is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2010
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Tier 1 running into budget challenges competing needs

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source: San Antonio Express News

writer: Peggy Fikac

AUSTIN — University presidents shooting for top-tier status for their institutions pressed lawmakers Thursday to preserve funding for an initiative to help get there, but tough budget times and competing priorities may work against them.

A pot of state matching funds to help the seven emerging research universities — including the University of Texas at San Antonio — already has been trimmed in a round of budget cuts, from $50 million this two-year period to $47.5 million, Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes said.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, a Laredo Democrat who heads the Senate Higher Education Committee, repeatedly urged the seven university leaders to make the case for funding with the lawmakers who represent them.

She said she shared the worry that a cut in funding next time would deflate the idea.

“My charge to you is to do your persuasive best — without lobbying,” Zaffirini told the heads of the University of Texas campuses in San Antonio, El Paso, Arlington and Dallas; the University of Houston; the University of North Texas; and Texas Tech.

The university leaders testified before a joint meeting of her committee and the House Higher Education Committee headed by Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, who with Zaffirini pushed the Tier One legislation last year.“We have an obligation to be a top research institution,” UTSA President Ricardo Romo said after his testimony. Besides benefiting students, he said, “the university is an economic engine.”

The joint meeting looked at progress on the Tier One initiative and heard about other education issues, including concerns about college completion rates.

According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, 30.4 percent of students who entered community and technical colleges in fall 2003 got an associate's degree or certificate, bachelor's degree or higher degree in six years.

The six-year graduation rate for students who entered four-year institutions that fall was 55.9 percent.

Woody Hunt, chairman of the Governor's Business Council, said it's important for the state to focus on college completion, rather than class attendance and participation.
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