Financial aid for graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin could be slashed because of state cuts to higher education, UT Austin's chief academic officer Steven Leslie testified this morning.
"We're already projecting that we're going to need to cut something in the range of $5 million in graduate student aid for the College of Liberal Arts. The Dean of Engineering is cutting a million dollars in aid. The College of Education, we're cutting programs," Leslie told a House Appropriations subcommittee on higher education funding.
State Representative Scott Hochberg, who chairs the subcommittee, asked the obvious question.
"Do you think that a substantial share of those students will have a difficult time attending or being successful at the University of Texas if they don't have financial aid?" Hochberg said.
"We worry about that. Yes, absolutely," Leslie responded, adding the cuts could affect about 2,500 students on the UT-Austin campus.
Earlier this week, the University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa testified to the Texas Senate Finance Committee that the most vulnerable students would carry the heaviest burden from proposed state cuts, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The bill "is going to adversely impact access, affordability and excellence," Cigarroa said at Wednesday's hearing at the Capitol.
However, members also questioned university officials about enrollment issues and seemed skeptical at times about some spending decisions.
Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said that enrollment growth can trigger more funding for a campus. However, growth at the flagship University of Texas at Austin has been flat. "Are there schools that have chosen for one reason or another to stop enrollment growth?" she asked.
Cigarroa responded: "It only proves that one size doesn't fit all. The challenge of UT-Austin is similar to the challenge other mature institutions have."
Representatives from community colleges that could be closed under the funding cuts contained in House Bill 1 are waiting to provide public testimony at today's House Appropriations subcommittee hearing.
"It is really frustrating," Ranger College president Bill Campion told KUT News. "We provide the only chance at post-secondary education for a great number of students living in some of these [West Texas] counties."