As the number of students eligible for the state’s largest financial aid program grows, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is projecting a substantial drop in the percentage of eligible students who will receive the award.
Initial budget proposals filed in the Texas House and Senate this week keep funding flat for the Toward EXcellence, Access, & Success (TEXAS) Grant Program.
Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes said Wednesday he was “troubled” lawmakers denied his initial request for an additional $107 million for the TEXAS grant, which is awarded to students with financial need.
According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, $107 million more would allow the agency to renew the grant for everyone currently receiving it (about 70 percent of eligible students) and offer new grants to about 70 percent of newly eligible students.
“We would love to be able to fund a 100 percent of eligible students, but 70 percent is much better than a lower number,” Paredes said.
Without the additional funding, the coordinating board estimates that it will only be able to offer grants to about 56 percent of newly eligible students next school year, and that total would be less if the board increases the average award slightly to keep up with rising tuition. The average TEXAS grant recipient is awarded around $5,000 a year.
Unless state lawmakers increase support for the grant during the budget process, Paredes said his agency may have to recommend a lower award amount for both returning and new students “so we could stretch our resources as far as possible.”
“But that would be a very serious consequence for poor students who are trying to get a secondary credential,” Paredes said.
One area where the proposed higher education funding follows Paredes’ recommendation is a $60 million increase for graduate medical education.
Paredes said if the additional funding remains in the final budget bill, it will help his agency provide residencies for graduates of newer medical schools in Austin, El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley.
“We were very grateful,” Paredes said. “We know that there’s a high correlation between where you do your residency and where you ultimately practice.”
Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille