Delaney Whitworth '22 February 8, 2023 8:40 AM updated: February 13, 2023 12:23 PM
On Feb. 15, hundreds of Aggies and Longhorns will meet with elected state officials to advocate for Texas A&M and the University of Texas. As the state’s two flagship universities, the historic rivals hold shared interests in the advancement of higher education in Texas. Volunteers, comprising current and former students, and university officials will visit the offices of state representatives to talk about some of the most pressing issues each university faces.
There are five key issues that volunteers will be advocating for:
1- Invest in the academic missions of the University of Texas and Texas A&M. State formula funding directly supports the core academic mission of the two flagship universities— educating students. The costs of educating students have increased over time, creating greater strain on students and families of Texas. Stable and predictable state funding helps to keep college affordable and promotes efficiency and consistency for the universities, students and families.
2- Increase investment in Texas-based research initiatives. Advocates are asking officials to enhance the funding rate for the Texas Research University Fund and maintain the funding level for the Governor’s University Research Initiative. Stronger investment in research aimed at solving the complex challenges facing our state stimulates the state’s economy and creates invaluable opportunities for students to gain hands-on, practical experience in their chosen fields while receiving instruction from world-class faculty.
3- Invest to support the innovations and productions of semiconductors in Texas. In the summer of 2022, Congress passed the CHIPS and Science Act, which provides over $52 billion for American semiconductor research, development, manufacturing, and workforce development. This funding will help secure domestic supply chains, create tens of thousands of jobs, and catalyze hundreds of billions more in private investment. A state investment in this area will uniquely position Texas to compete for the $13 billion in federal R&D funds and become a national leader in the semiconductor industry. Combined, respective funding for the Texas Institute for Electronics (TIE) and the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) will enable the state to address national defense and secure commercial production challenges.
4- Invest in student mental health services. With more students seeking mental health services, the costs of these services have increased by 76% at Texas A&M since 2020 and are projected to increase by an additional 150% by FY25 to meet demands for care. UT Austin and Texas A&M have seen a 30% increase in students seeking mental health care or experiencing a mental health crisis, and both institutions have enhanced outreach, resources, and created new care pathways to help serve them.
5- Fully fund military veteran legacy education benefits through the Texas Hazlewood Act. Honor the legislature’s commitment to our military veterans, as created in the Hazlewood Act, by fully funding costs specifically associated with children of eligible service men and women — referred to as “Legacy” beneficiaries. The Hazlewood Act, enacted by the Legislature in 1943, is a State of Texas benefit that provides tuition exemptions for qualified military veterans with up to 150 hours at public institutions of higher education. In 2009, this benefit was expanded with the Hazlewood “Legacy” benefit, allowing veterans to transfer their well-deserved tuition exemption to any eligible dependent children. However, it is largely an unfunded mandate on public institutions of higher learning in Texas. The cost of these tuition “waivers” is ultimately passed on to other students — through higher tuition and fees — enrolled at their respective campuses. The average impact of a Hazlewood “legacy beneficiary” waiver passed on to other students is approximately $196 at UT Austin and $270 per year at Texas A&M. Texans, through action by their State Legislature, committed that our military veterans and their eligible dependents can have the benefit of a tuition exemption at public institutions of higher education. UT Austin and Texas A&M share a collective commitment to care for and honor the sacrifice of our service men and women. With an ever-growing number of eligible dependents matriculating each academic year, UT Austin and Texas A&M cannot sustain these costs without significant increases in tuition for non-eligible students.