COLLEGE STATION, June 4, 2009 – In contrast to reports of financial challenges in higher education elsewhere around the nation, Texas A&M University and other public institutions of higher learning in Texas fared well in funding during the legislative session that concluded Monday night, noted President Elsa A. Murano. Even so, she vowed to continue belt-tightening measures and be even better stewards of taxpayer dollars.
“We are grateful indeed to all members of the Legislature – and most certainly to Sen. Steve Ogden and Rep. Fred Brown – for their support in helping make possible Texas A&M’s opportunity to continue to progress in carrying out its vital mission,” Murano said. “This underscores the members’ understanding and appreciation of our role in educating the state’s leaders of tomorrow, as well as of the many contributions Texas A&M makes in research, to economic growth and other benefits to society.”
Murano said the 81st Legislative Session “showcased a strong commitment to the state’s institutions of higher education,” both as currently configured and for the creation of additional public “Tier 1” institutions – the status currently limited to Texas A&M and the University of Texas at Austin. Murano testified several times in Austin about the benefits to the state of elevating a select number of other institutions to Tier 1 status.
Terry Pankratz, Texas A&M vice president and chief financial officer, said the university appropriations for the next biennium – Fiscal Years 2009-10 and 2010-11 – total $530 million, representing a net increase of $41 million compared to the current level, if the Texas A&M portions of the appropriations bill remain as proposed. The appropriations bill, scheduled for inclusion in the state’s budget for the next biennium, is now being reviewed by Gov. Rick Perry. The 2009-10 fiscal year begins Sept. 1, coinciding with the date that the university’s new annual operating budget goes into effect.
Murano pointed out that $29 million of that increase is a result of “formula funding” based on enrollment gains, and $15 million is from the Competitive Knowledge Fund. The Competitive Knowledge Fund allocation will help underwrite costs associated with the institution’s evolving first-ever academic master plan and provide support for new faculty and research initiatives to help solve some of the most pressing problems facing the state and nation, including development of alternative fuels, cancer treatment and coping with climate change.
Additionally, the Legislature provided $6.2 million for reimbursement costs for rehabilitating the Texas A&M University at Galveston campus from damages sustained during Hurricane Ike and an additional $5 million for a Tuition Revenue Bond to fund future mitigation of hurricane damage and coastal erosion around the campus.
Underscoring her vow to continue belt-tightening and good stewardship, Murano cited Texas A&M’s record for having the lowest administrative cost ratio of any university in the state and for being recognized nationally for “best value” designation by several prestigious publications, including the top-ranking for “payback ratio” by Smart Money magazine. She also noted that the Aggie Assurance program, which covers tuition for students with household incomes of $60,000 or less, illustrates Texas A&M’s commitment to affordability and accessibility. Since its launch, the program has been emulated by other universities across the state at varying financial levels.
“We are unequivocally committed to providing high-quality education at the lowest possible cost,” she added. “We are ever mindful of the need to keep Texas A&M both affordable and accessible—doing everything we can to continue to attract and retain students across a broad spectrum, including young men and women who are the first in their families to attend college.”