Students visit legislature in support of Tuition Equalization Grants

Texas State Capitol BuilldingSeveral SMU students are meeting with state legislators at the Texas Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 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.

Written by Sarah Hanan

> Read the full story at the SMU Parents blog,

SMU students stand up for Texas Tuition Equalization Grants

Save TEG table in Hughes-Trigg Student CenterSMU students who receive Texas state tuition assistance are speaking up against proposed budget cuts that could jeopardize the grant program that provides the funds.

The Tuition Equalization Grant (TEG) program provides financial aid to students attending 42 private Texas colleges and universities. It awards grants averaging $3,400 to about 28,000 Texans with financial need each year, nearly half of whom are minorities.

The TEG program faces cuts of more than 40 percent; the proposed budget cuts would eliminate about 10,000 students from the grant program. More than 1,500 SMU students received the grant for the 2010-11 academic year.

Vice President for Student Affairs Lori White encouraged the University’s TEG recipients “to contact your Texas legislators and express your opinion about this issue” in an e-mail sent earlier this week.

A group of students met with state legislators at the Texas Capitol on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 to express their support for the TEG program. They included senior and student body president Jake Torres; seniors Laura Baez, Daniela Balderas and Brian Quarles; junior Bethany Mackingtee; sophomore Erin Hoya; and first-year Ryan Swick. Fernando Salazar, coordinator of Latina/o Student Services in Student Activities & Multicultural Student Affairs, joined them on the trip.

“This was an opportunity to make our voices heard,” Torres said. “We were able to emphasize the importance of these grants to the SMU community and to Texas.”

Students are gathering in support of the TEG program in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Commons through 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 9. The students will have postcards and addresses to allow fellow TEG recipients to write to their representatives in the Texas Legislature.

(Above, SMU students and staff members at the Save TEG table in Hughes-Trigg Student Center include Gordon Brannon, Financial Aid; Fernando Salazar, SAMSA; senior Jake Torres, student body president; and junior Bethany Mackingtee. Photo by Isaac Cotherman.)

> Learn more from SMU News
> Read the students’ letter to the editor of The Dallas Morning News
> Read the students’ op-ed in The Austin American-Statesman
> Find coverage of the students’ Austin trip in the DMN’s Politics section
> More about SMU and TEG from the DMN Trailblazers blog
> Read and listen to coverage from KERA Public Radio audio