State cuts to higher education is not answer

April 8, 2011 at 8:01 p.m.
Updated April 8, 2011 at 11:09 p.m.

As the state of Texas faces one of its largest budget shortfalls in state history, the 82nd Legislature has responded by proposing a $767 million cut in appropriations for Texas community colleges. For Victoria College, the proposed cuts amount to $4.2 million over the next two years. These proposed cuts are in addition to nearly $1 million in cuts already made to VC's 2010-11 state appropriations.

The Texas House recently passed its version of the budget bill without any increase in funding for us over their original proposal. The Senate is still working on its version. Both proposed budgets will eventually be sent to a conference committee to work out the differences in the two bills.

We have prepared a special insert in today's newspaper explaining our current budget situation. I hope you will take the time to read through this insert, as it describes VC's budget situation in detail and indicates how much of the state's responsibility for funding has already shifted onto the college and our students, and how much of this burden the community will now be forced to assume.

So what do these proposed cuts mean for our region?

VC is the Golden Crescent region's leader of workforce training and continuing education, serving many of the region's largest employers. Additionally, many of the students in the region save thousands of dollars by starting at VC before transferring to a four-year university to earn a bachelor's degree.

VC's enrollment has increased to 4,335 credit students in fall 2010, a 7 percent increase over the last five years, with more growth expected due to the economy. However, VC is being forced to serve more students with significantly less funding.

Given the likelihood of very large cuts, the VC Board of Trustees recently voted to increase tuition for all students by $9 per credit hour beginning in fall 2011. Out-of-county students will incur an additional $2 fee, bringing their total increase to $11 per credit hour.

VC also will incur very large cuts to its operating budget, and these are in addition to the cuts we have already made over the last two years. Victoria College is currently teaching hundreds of additional students with fewer faculty and fewer staff than we had two years ago. Our budget for next year will further reduce operating costs and will reduce the number of faculty and staff even more.

But even as large as these cuts are, they still are not large enough to balance our budget, even after coupling them with the tuition and fee increase.

After increasing tuition and cutting our budget, the only remaining way to fund any remaining deficit created by a lack of state funding is through an increase in local property taxes. Historically, the Victoria College Board of Trustees has made every effort to keep our tax rate low. In fact, the almost $1 million in cuts that VC has already taken were done without any increase in taxes.

It is true that hard choices face our legislators as they address the state's budget shortfall. However, shifting the state's responsibility for funding higher education to local communities is not the answer. I urge you to contact your state legislators while there is still time.

Tom Butler is president of Victoria College.



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