Senate Finance met on February 23 with the Higher Education Coordinating Board, Available University Fund, and Higher Education Fund to discuss budget proposals, virtual accommodations, COVID appropriations and weather challenges. This report does not cover the hearing in its entirety. The video archive of the meeting can be found here.

This report is intended to give you an overview and highlight of the discussions on the various topics the committee took up. It is not a verbatim transcript of the hearing but is based upon what was audible or understandable to the observer and the desire to get details out as quickly as possible with few errors or omissions.

Higher Education Coordinating Board


  • Recommend budget for All Funds is $1.74 billion, a decrease $153.4 million
  • Funding changes include a decrease in $74.5 million in reductions for GR funds
  • Budget structure changes consolidate the agency’s administrative and college-readiness strategies
  • Be on Time Program and NE Texas initiative have been phased out and Baylor College of Medicine medical education program has been reduced by $0.6 million
  • 5 programs maintained at 2021 GR levels, includes Texas Grants and Tuition Stabilization Grants
  • Professional Nursing Shortage Reduction Program recommended funding level is $18.9 million, an increase of $0.3 million due to the transfer of administrative funds in 2021
  • 12 programs the agency took a larger than 5% reduction resulting in GR increases
  • 7 programs where the recommended amounts are lower than 2021 budgeted amounts
  • CAPPS deployment scheduled for FY 2023
  • $175 million in GEER funding has been allocated to the agency, includes $57 million to restore funding for need-based financial aid programs
  • GME expansion recommendations total $150.5 million for program; total funding level is $199.1 million would be necessary to meet the one to one ratio of first year residency positions for each Texas medical school graduates
  • Rider highlights include clarifying how funding can be used and reducing contingency language
  • 5 exceptional items total $193.7 million
  • Nelson – Regarding GME expansion, are we budgeting for possible new schools?
    • 2022-23 does not include students Sam Houston and UoH as it started recently
  • West – Texas College Work Study, $18.8 million last session, $18.3 million this session; docs say this is an increase of $1.8 million?
    • $1.8 million is over 2021 estimated budget expenditure of $16.5 million, difference is tied to the 5% reduction request
  • Nichols – Have we funded enough residency slots for graduates? How much money does it take?
    • Need funding to maintain slots already made available, asking for more money this budget to maintain and create more; new slots roughly part of $44 million, can get more info to
  • Nelson notes that we have not funded new slots
  • Nichols – I think legislators will want to fund the residency slots at the school we created
  • Creighton – Be on Time phased out and what about Math Ways?
    • Yes, but Math Ways is still happening but being funded by UT Austin
  • Creighton – So the transfer agreement has expired with UT, is this a renewal of that agreement?
    • Yes, has expired
    • Understanding that UT Austin will be supporting that program with their own funds; board was spending about $100,000 annually
  • Creighton – Strategic plan for teachers’ certification: in light of teachers not comfortable coming back to classrooms, is this rider extending the agreement from the 2015 program?
    • Will have to ask
  • Campbell – Texas does not need any more medical schools

Dr. Harrison Keller, Commissioner of Higher Education

  • Will takes weeks to associate damage and total cost of winter storm; most campuses were closed, but maintained food services and sustained physical damage
  • COVID has cost hundreds of millions of dollars; moving online, keeping students off campus, simultaneous collapse of multiple revenue streams
  • Campuses are seeing significantly lower COVID rates
  • Strategic focus on targeted/strategic investments will be most helpful to higher education; will ensure long term economic competitiveness
  • $175 million GEER funding, for example, had provided $57 million to need based programs that could not be cut from budget
  • Have kept more than 60,000 students enrolled with financial aid
  • Tesla, Amazon, Apple, Google, etc. are expanding in Texas, the gap between these jobs and the average credentials are widening
  • COVID has accelerated what was already coming; the jobs that have been lost are not likely to come back
  • Community college enrollment down 9%, worse for minority populations
  • Access to need based financial aid; Texas grants less than 60% percent of eligible students
  • TEOGS less than 1 in 5
  • Asking for $57 million to keep these financial aid programs intact, but another $110 million to keep the students we have
  • GEAR dollars are modernizing workforce, making sure data is up to date and useful
  • Interactive advising tools between multiple colleges, price, programs
  • Increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attacks, asking for $4 million to increase security
  • Working closely with Houston area colleges for Grad Text 2.0
  • For Texans most vulnerable to economic disruption, some college but no credentials
  • All resources are being created in a way to make them scalable
  • Lucio – Do you have estimate of students that left schooling because of COVID? How many will return?
    • Cannot distinguish students’ reason for leaving
    • Public enrollments are slightly up
    • Community enrollments down 9%. Sharper declines for African American enrollments and low income students
  • Lucio – What are your commission and colleges doing to reconnect to students that left the classroom?
    • Difficult to expect colleges, on their own, to communicate with students who have dropped out
    • Working on a single intake portal to make reentry easier for students and create a handoff system to those institutions
  • Perry – Articulation agreements, credit transfer system
    • Working on it with 4- and 2-year institutions to build better policy structure
    • In next month, adopting structure for transfer framework
    • Partnering with institutions for recommended course sequences so students don’t take classes that don’t transfer
  • Perry – Civil government and political imbalance; do you have an initiative to effectively reinstall balance in curriculum? Everyone having their voices heard?
    • Do not have current initiative in civics education; need to focus on communication and civics for future employers
    • We have required Texas and American government curriculum in place
  • Perry – Cybersecurity, what information is being threatened?
    • Specific data for financial aid, SSN and other sensitive information, HIPAA
    • Increasing numbers of attacks from around the world
  • Perry – Do you provide students with constituent taxpayer data? For any reason?
    • Do not provide any protected data to anyone that does not have access
    • We do make data that has been deidentified available for research
  • Creighton – Comprehensive update on 60 x 30 refinement process, how 2020 impacted those goals?
    • Central goal is 60% of young population have some secondary credential by 2030
    • Before pandemic, not on track. The shock in the economy makes this work even more urgent
    • Launched a review of 60 x 30 goals to focus resources appropriately
    • 8 regional listening sessions; talked to more than 400 leaders around the state
    • 4 goals: research and development, credentialing that is in demand, broaden focus to older student population and equity
    • Burning Glass Technology: digital tool to see most recent data on unemployment, absorption rate of jobs by region and job market
    • Focus attention on training programs and GEAR funding allowed students to use it
    • Need to infuse this information into advising, translating how credentials bolster real life opportunities
  • Creighton – Safeguards for infrastructure?
    • Need to modernize infrastructure and automate to increase effectiveness
  • West – At what point do we have systemic changes to where we don’t experience peaks and valleys in regard to African American education as your agency is responsible for that; what resources do you need, what programs? 80% of population growth in TX is ethnic minority and what is being done?
    • Engage students earlier in the pipeline, make the transition seamless
    • Will have more solid plan by end of week
  • West – Financial aid 79,704 students served; where did that money come from?
    • Some of GEAR funds were committed so we would not have to take 5% cut to financial aid funds
    • $57 million was used to maintain financial aid, $43 million of that specifically from Texas grants
  • West – $500,000 cut to Joint Admissions Medical program, early admission to talented students. What is the impact?
    • Unsure how many students are impacted
  • Bettencourt – Public enrollment percentage?
    • Up by 1.4%, a little over 9,000 students
    • 2-year enrollment down 9% and an 8% drop in dual credit
  • Bettencourt – 4.192 million TX residents have some college without credentials, will $4 million allocation be enough?
    • Mostly for portal
  • Bettencourt – Do we have any studies of the freshman class this year and virtual ed?
    • No, and it is changing rapidly
  • Kolkhorst – Students are forced to be on campus and take classes, an expense to them. Quality of education lessened due to virtual transition. What comes from this? Will we ever go back to face to face?
    • Distinction between emergency online instruction and quality online education
    • Transitioned to virtual in 2 weeks and did not have the support infrastructure
    • Hybrid moving forward
  • Kolkhorst – Is it cheaper to offer online?
    • Now, its more expensive; will need to retool spaces and repurpose campuses
  • Perry – Chart on page 3 shows degrees earned in white population decreased, Hispanic decreasing, African American flatlined, Asian increasing. Correct?
    • Yes
  • Perry – Community enrollment is down, which is odd for a bad economy; are you seeing compression of trade school environments because high schools are starting those certifications early?
    • Work on macro-credentials and stackable credentials, more innovations as demand increases
  • Perry – How will that look over the next five years?
    • The conventional four-year structure of high school has little significance, and it may be hindering the momentum into higher ed

Available University Fund


  • Recommends $2.5 billion in Other Funds, a 2.8% decrease; board of regent’s special distribution was increased and is offset by the growth of the fund and increased the value of the AUF
  • Estimated $2.5 billion in AUF funding will be allocated between UT and A&M system
  • AUF 5% distribution rate raised to 5.5% in 2020-21, and 2022-23 rate will not be raised above 7%
  • Bonds backed by the PUF have outstanding debt equal approximately 22.4% value of PUF as of August 2020
  • Is an overview of the projected growth of the PUF

Higher Education Fund


  • Funds used for various capital expenditures and other permanent improvement projects
  • Allocation is set every 10 years and reviewed every 5; recently set in 2015 at $393.8 million per fiscal year
  • Recommended allocations continue the approved level of $393.8 million
  • How allocations changed last session were based on recommendations from the THECB
  • Presentation includes how much will be available for institutions

Available National Research University Fund


  • Are funds for Emerging Research Universities
  • Recommend $50.5 million in Other Funds, an increase of $1.1 million due to anticipated growth of the fund
  • Distribution rate for the NRUF may not exceed 4.5% of the value of the NRUF corpus for the previous three fiscal years
  • Total value of the NRUF as of August 2020 was $736.3 million

Permanent Fund Supporting Military Veterans Exemptions


  • Other Funds projected to see a $742,000 increase in 20-21 fiscal year
  • GR is maintained at 20-21 level
  • Estimated $18.4 million appropriation from the permanent MVE fund based on a 3.5 estimated value of the MVE fund based upon a 20 month rolling average
  • 5% Reduction to Appropriations for the Hazelwood Legacy Program $14.25 million to be distributed per fiscal year

Institutions of Higher Education


  • $7.7 billion in All Funds, decrease of $53 million base spending from 2020
  • 5% reduction methodology included formula funds, not included in 2022-23, excluded TRB debt service, health-related and school-safety programs
  • All funds decreases due to formula increases
  • Rider changes were minimal, mostly clean up and alignment
  • Request for TRB financing in exceptional items
  • Lucio – Any state funds to help university with COVID costs? Or just federal funds?
    • Some used HEF funds, have to look into it

Health Related Institutions


  • 13 health related institutions
  • Funding for the new University of Houston College of Medicine
  • $3 billion GR for ‘22-‘23 biennium
  • 10 formulas distribute funding to HRI, 6 mission specific formulas
  • Nonformula funding, including workers comp, unemployment, and debt service
  • Financial impact of COVID on all HRI
  • Nichols – $94.5 million Increase in research expenditures when we can’t afford to pay our teachers, questions if we should increase at this time?
    • There is no increase in research enhancement, only the $84 million already allotted
    • $94.5 million is the reported expenditures in 2019 that we base our rate off of
  • Kolkhorst – HRI reported $159 million in ’21 to go virtual, is that a loss? And a projected loss of three-fourths billion?
    • Will provide that information to all members

Texas Woman’s University

Carine Feyten, Chancellor Texas Woman’s University

  • Tied for most diverse student body in TX and 4th most affordable in TX
  • Nationally ranked in upward mobility and highest possible reward for transition to virtual
  • Working with A&M Commerce and UNT that values collaboration and competition, student focused so every student in Dallas has somewhere to go
  • Block chain technology gives students ownership and control of academic record on smartphone to send to any institution instead of registration offices
  • Awarded grant to build upon Greenlight Tech (platform)
  • Responsible for 24% of doctoral degrees in nursing in TX to expand undergrad education and 50% in allied health professionals; enrollment at all time high
  • Kolkhorst – Nursing professors, how do you combat pipeline of nurses? How can we get them to return to the classroom?
    • Dedicated funding for Graduate Nursing Programs for recruiting
  • Nelson – Women business grants, how many applied that did not receive funding?
    • Thousands; 99 of the 100 applicants kept their business afloat
  • Nelson – Bottleneck of nursing shortage is at the professing level; what does the future look like for future education?
    • Students are clamoring to come back; content is important but interpersonal skills equally so
  • Campbell – Seeing deficit in skills from nurses going straight to nurse practitioner school?
    • Our Dean of Nursing agrees; some masters programs have qualifications of clinical experience