A&M's President Praises Latest Legislative Session

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Texas A&M's interim president says the 80th Legislative Session may have been the best for them in recent memory.

In a memo to faculty and staff Thursday, Eddie Davis described the gains for A&M, including a biennial increase in appropriations of 11.6 percent. Davis called it the best outcome on that front for the university in more than a decade.

As a result, a pair of key priorities were achieved: the restoration of proposed cuts and the funding of bond debt service for the Emerging Technology and Economic Development Buildings.

The following is the full statement from Texas A&M Interim President Eddie Davis:

"I am pleased to report that Texas A&M University had one of the best legislative sessions in recent history—highlighted by a biennial increase in appropriations of 11.6 percent. It was undoubtedly the best appropriations outcome in over a decade for funding for our University.

"Thus, a hearty round of thanks is in order—both to members of the Legislature and to those who represented us so well in Austin by explaining our needs and noting how they would benefit present and future young men and women who come here for their educational pursuits— and for the ultimate benefit of the State of Texas.

"As you are undoubtedly aware, we entered the 80th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature with several priorities deemed important for us to continue to progress and enhance our teaching, research and service programs. Most of them are related to our objectives of attaining adequate funding to continue the high-priority programs already under way.

"Two of our top priorities were achieved with the introduction of the base appropriations bill early in the session: the restoration of proposed cuts and the funding of tuition revenue bond debt service for the construction of the Emerging Technology and Economic Development Buildings (ETED). That allowed us to continue with other funding priorities, as well as initiate the planning of the ETED facilities to meet faculty reinvestment growth in the Dwight Look College of Engineering and in other colleges and academic units.

"Additional top priorities targeted:

- An increase in formula funding for operations and support of academic programs.

- Retention of the $40 million in special item funding for faculty reinvestment, and funding for the last phase of the initiative.

- Implementation of a funding mechanism that recognizes the unique role of Texas A&M and other research universities in the state.

- Funding to resolve a long-standing disadvantage affecting Texas A&M University at Galveston.

"Embodied in these priorities was the goal to achieve much-needed merit salary increases for our faculty and staff, as well as to enhance funding for college start-up and operating costs, continue our diversity and recruiting efforts and hold designated tuition to a reasonable level. Regarding salaries, we now have the capability to have a three-percent merit increase pool for our faculty and staff, as well as to provide support for a one-percent pool for retention and equity issues and funding to offset certain costs in benefits and parking for lower-paid employees. Additionally we have some substantial increases in funding for college operating and start-up funds.

"Also, we now have the fiscal capability to continue the progress in all four of the key previously identified strategic priorities, most notably faculty reinvestment. The increase in formula funding for operations was fueled in part by the increase in semester credit hours produced through the incentives of flat-rate tuition and the advising effort to increase semester credit hour workloads and shorten time to graduation.

"Three other notable outcomes related to our targeted priorities include:

• The faculty reinvestment dollars where retained and, through a changed funding mechanism, protected for future bienniums.

- The funding mechanism called “The Competitive Knowledge Fund” provided a funding methodology that responds to growth in funded research. As you may know, the formula funding mechanism of the State has historically responded to growth in enrollment. With Texas A&M University and The University of Texas at Austin essentially capped in enrollment, the change to fund research growth is an extraordinarily positive step that should provide enhanced funding for the State’s flagship research universities.

- The new Galveston funding approach achieved a cure to an age-old problem of the formulas that did not recognize the unique special purpose of that branch campus. This is a substantial achievement that had been sought for many years.

"Special thanks goes to Senator Steve Ogden, our District 5 Senator, but more importantly from an appropriations perspective, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Senator Ogden led the appropriations process in the Senate and was a stellar supporter of higher education as well as good government in the State of Texas. He is owed a tremendous debt of gratitude by the entire University community and by all of his constituents throughout District 5.

"Representative Fred Brown was instrumental in achieving support for a funding model that will allow reduced tuition pricing in the summer of

2008 to create incentives for students to stay on campus and take courses to improve the utilization of facilities and other resources, and for that we are most grateful.

"Also, special thanks goes to Representative Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham, who was the author and staunch supporter of the Competitive Knowledge Fund as described above.

"Additionally, I most certainly want to express thanks to the broader University administration and especially to Vice President for Governmental Affairs Michael O’Quinn and Vice Chancellor for Governmental Affairs Stanton Calvert, as well as to Chancellor Mike McKinney—all of whom participated enthusiastically and highly effectively in the team effort that led to the successful session. I hope that as you have an opportunity, you will make it a point to thank our elected officials—especially those individually noted above— and to those on the team that spent untold hours enhancing the opportunities for Texas A&M to continue its progress toward excellence in all we do."