Each new year brings another semester, another Bluebonnet season, and new hopes for long term football. And every two years? The legislature comes together to make decisions for the benefit of Texans across the state—including decisions affecting forty acres.

This year, lawmakers met at the Capitol for the 88th time. The debates on education are sure to continue as fraught conversations about COVID-19 policies, lesson plans, book bans and athletics have continued since the last session ended.

The Texas Exes and their Aggie counterparts, the former student association of Texas A&M, will meet on biennial Orange & Maroon Legislative Day — when the Longhorns and Aggies come together to defend their universities on February 15, 2023. But throughout the session, several alumni will make an argument to the legislature that the University of Austin should get its share of the pie.

Here’s what UT Advocates sees as we watch the hearing unfold this year.

Where we stopped public education

Still in the throes of the pandemic, the legislature looks a little different from previous sessions. But even so, bills passed, including one requiring public schools to restrict athletic competitions based on biological sex and another limiting how schools teach certain subjects as “critical race theory” debates came to a head.

In a bill allocating COVID-19 relief money, UT Austin received $3 million to rebuild dorms at the Hurricane Harvey-damaged Marine Science Institute, and the Briscoe Garner Museum Fund cut from last session — $235,000 — was restored.

UT Austin also received $56.1 million to renovate the Microelectronics Center on the Pickle Research campus and $56.1 million to renovate the Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy Building through a bill that issues revenue bonds to fund capital projects at public institutions of higher education.

What do you see in 2023

College funding is always a topic of discussion at every legislative session, and this time should be no different. Funds from the state come from a few different funds, but when adjusted for inflation, UT Austin has seen a 40 percent drop in state funding since 1984. The UT system receives funding primarily through the University Permanent Fund.

How does yota stop work

In 2021, the UT system had the second largest endowment in the country at nearly $43 billion — second only to Harvard University. But half of that endowment comes from land leases on 2.1 million acres in West Texas, which the Texas Constitution set aside to support the University of Texas and Texas A&M higher education systems in 1876. Revenue from leasing that land to oil and gas companies makes up the Permanent University Fund (PUF). From PUF comes the Available University Fund (AUF). One-third of AUF is required to transfer to the Texas A&M University system, while the UT system receives the other two-thirds. UT Austin receives only 12 percent of the total AUF, which is earmarked for specific resources and makes up 9 percent of UT Austin’s $3 billion budget — about $250 million.

But as far as state financing is concerned…

In 2011, higher education across the state suffered major cuts to essential funding levels that were not restored—and now we enter this legislative session with a huge budget surplus. Advocates will argue that said surplus should be invested in higher education.

In even-numbered years, the Higher Education Coordinating Council calculates a formula to determine how funds should be distributed to the state’s institutions of higher education. The Council’s recommendations are presented to the Legislative Budget Council on June 1. There are two main components: instructions and processes, and infrastructure support.

Let’s define

Advocates are hoping for more funding specifically for Dell Medical College to help fund research and enrollment as the school works to transform health care in a world still dealing with COVID-19.

Another big priority is obtaining more funding for research by strengthening the University of Texas Research Fund (TRUF), which provides approximately $1.2 million in investment for every $10 million in research expenditures at UT Austin and Texas A&M College Station.

In addition, UT advocates are asking the legislature to fully fund the TEXAS Scholarship Program, which provides financial assistance to qualified students, but in recent years has been unable to provide funds for all eligible students. For the 2016-2017 biennium, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Council estimated that TEXAS scholarship allocations funded 89 percent of eligible incoming students.

Credit: Sam Calda

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