Students Visit Legislature in Support of Tuition Equalization Grants

From left: Students Tyrone Davis, Chanesia Johnson and Nayelly Dominguez at the state Capitol

Several SMU students are meeting with state legislators at the Texas Capitol on Wednesday, February 27, to express their support of increasing funding to the Texas Tuition Equalization Grant program.

Funding for the TEG program, which provides financial aid to low- and middle-income students attending 39 private Texas colleges and universities, was reduced by 20 percent during the last Legislative session. The program now serves 5,000 fewer students than it did in 2009 and meets less than half of demonstrated student need for the grants.

During fiscal year 2012 the program awarded grants averaging $3,309 to 25,474 Texans, more than half of whom are minorities. Nearly 65 percent are Pell grant recipients, the state’s neediest students.

“Tuition Equalization Grants directly help students at SMU and at other private institutions of higher learning in Texas achieve their academic and professional goals,” says SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “The grants also help private institutions meet Texas’ growing need for an educated workforce in today’s competitive economy, while reducing taxpayer costs for higher education. We urge the Legislature to restore funding and increase the number of students who benefit from Tuition Equalization Grants.”

The TEG program saves taxpayers money every year by reducing the state funds appropriated for public university students to pay costs not covered by state tuition. The average grant received by a TEG student this year was less than half the subsidy provided students at state universities.

At SMU, nearly 1,500 students are TEG recipients. Those visiting Austin include Chanesia Johnson of Dallas, a junior biology and psychology major; Tyrone Davis of Dallas, a junior chemistry and biology major; and Nayelly Dominguez of Fort Worth, a sophomore majoring in economics, French and engineering management, information and systems.

“TEG has helped me attend SMU and focus on the many opportunities here,” Dominguez says. “I’m able to triple-major, have an internship and be involved on campus, including with the Hegi Family Career Development Center Ambassadors and Crain Leadership Conference. Education opens the doors to everything, and this grant is helping make education possible for me and thousands of students.”

SMU is a member of the nonprofit association Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas (ICUT), which serves as a voice in government for 39 private institutions. Students attending other ICUT institutions also are visiting Austin to meet with their legislators and express support for TEG.

Since its founding in 1971, the TEG program has made it possible for low- and middle-income students to afford the unsubsidized tuition of Texas private institutions, which have higher graduation rates than state universities.

TEG also helps meet Texas’ higher education needs without additional formula funding, tuition revenue bonds or other state investments in personnel, benefits or infrastructure. Degrees produced by independent institutions cost taxpayers about 8 percent of the cost of degrees produced by public institutions.

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