During the faculty senate meeting held Nov. 11, UTSA Provost Dr. John Frederick released news that due to the current $25 billion Texas deficit the university will see 30-35 percent budget cuts.
“Most optimistic would be a 20% budget cut,” Dr. Frederick said. “We’re being told by the house appropriations committee chair that the first budget bill will be the worst case scenario.”
Higher education will see the worst budget cuts due to the deficit because there are only three areas that are allowed to make cuts: higher education, public education and the HHS (Health and Human Services).
“There are many legislators that will not cut appropriations to prisons in the interest of public safety,” Dr. Frederick said.
“The budget cuts that some Republican leaders are considering will harm UTSA. While students may be willing to pay a little higher tuition in exchange for improved instructional facilities and other quality amenities, the cuts being proposed could push tuition out of reach for many families,” Texas House Rep. Michael Villarreal said.
In recent elections, the Republican Party has promised to not raise taxes, but according to State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte this will lead to “no chance to offset horrendous tax cuts.” Texas has the option of tapping into what is called the Rainy Day Fund that currently holds $9 billion, but it takes one hundred legislative votes to allow that.
“It will be very difficult because the people elected are very conservative,” Van De Putte said.
“Tuition has raised 72% at UTSA, but that is not the only university,” Van De Putte said. “Higher education is seeing the highest cuts, but universities are not the only ones.”
All Texas public universities are cutting budgets and raising tuition, but government agencies are getting cuts as well including Medicaid, mental health and highway funding.
A sector in a local San Antonio hospital will be shut down and there is the possibility of ending Medicaid and the HIV program. Jails will also be seeing some cuts and offenders will not be going back to serve their full term because the number of guards will have to be cut.
Though this is new information to the public, the budget cuts have been a long time coming according to Van De Putte.
“In July of 2006, there were 14.2 billion dollar property tax cuts, but only $9.4 billion was called for. Meaning that since 2006 we have been $5-6 billion behind no matter what,” Van De Putte said.
Sen. Van De Putte and Rep. Villarreal are certain that the cuts will cause a rise in tuition, but according to Dr. Frederick, “the tuition for next year has already been approved by the board, so if there is a rise in tuition it won’t be seen for two years.”
“All should be concerned as citizens. Higher education is an investment in the future and the students are our future,” said Dr. Frederick.
“Because the future of San Antonio depends on educating our people, I will keep fighting to maintain our state’s investment in our students’ education.
“I call on all UTSA students to join me in trying to protect our state investments in higher education by calling their state legislators, the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor.
“If the cuts go through, those who did not vote will learn the hard way that elections have consequences and voting does matter,” Villarreal said.
“All agencies were asked to submit budget cuts and 41 percent went to higher education,” Van De Putte said. “We’re not even in the worst of it, it’s going to take this cycle and next to see bad times in the rearview mirror.”