The 81st Texas Legislative session is under way, and its outcome is important to UT. A predicted budget shortfall, a weak economy, the aftermath of Hurricane Ike and other issues will make it a challenging session for legislators and those of us who depend on state revenue.
State support for higher education is an important issue. From 1990 to 2008, general revenue from the state has grown at 1.9% per year, far below inflation during the same period. As a result, students and their families have absorbed more of the burden through tuition increases. At UT we are responding to the economic conditions with a salary freeze for top administrators, a hiring freeze in selected areas and other austerity measures.
We are greatly concerned about affordability. But it's important to realize that regental control of tuition, so called "deregulation," has been critical to maintaining quality in an environment of declining state support. Tuition policy must be balanced with state appropriations and financial aid programs to ensure affordability and access.
Many of you have expressed an interest in the Top 10% Law. We have published a report on the law and its impact on our campus based on data collected since the law went into effect in 1998. The report (PDF) is available online. There are strong indications that the Legislature will revisit the Top 10% Law during the session.
We aspire to make UT the best public university in the nation. To that end, we have forged ahead with the capital campaign. We have now raised $782 million, and we are a quarter of the way toward reaching our goal of $3 billion. Many of you have contributed, and I thank you. We appreciate every contribution, large or small. Your dollars make a difference in the lives of our students. I hope that everyone who values the University will participate. We have been asked to provide a simple way to give. The link below is just that. Please contribute if you are able.
This marks the beginning of the second year of my periodic e-mail messages to friends and alumni. I appreciate all the replies that I have received.
Best wishes from the 40 Acres,
William Powers Jr.
The University of Texas at Austin