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State's financial aid program to fall well short of need

By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz, Austin American Statesman

The state's higher education agency approved a legislative appropriations request Thursday that falls far short of meeting the financial aid need in Texas, where more and more college-age students come from low-income families.

Members of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, meeting in Austin, voted 9-0 to ask lawmakers to allocate $580.8 million for Texas Grants, the state's main aid program.

That would be a $21.2 million increase — by shifting money from other grant and loan programs — over the current two-year budget for Texas Grants. But it's a far cry from what would be needed to provide full funding for the need-based program: $1.4 billion.

Full funding was last provided in 2004. Although the dollar amount allocated for the program has grown substantially since then, it has not kept pace with the influx of eligible students.

"We would rather give everybody a full ride, but that's not grounded in reality," said Dan Weaver, an assistant commissioner of the coordinating board.

The Legislative Budget Board instructed state agencies to submit hold-the-line appropriations requests for the next biennium, 2014-2015, which begins in September 2013. Agencies must also submit proposed budgets with two 5 percent reductions, under which Texas Grants would drop to $547.4 million.

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