David Bellow, Republican Candidate for Hardin County Judge recently posted two great articles on TexasGOPVote.com detailing the history of tuition set asides and is also calling to end the secret tax on higher education.
January 30, 2013
Contact: Robert Papierz (512) 463-0661
Bill Filed to Lower Tuition Costs While Funding Veterans Education
AUSTIN – Representative Allen Fletcher has authored HB 830 to allow public institutions of higher education the flexibility to fund the Hazlewood Act.
The Hazlewood Act provides up to 150 hours of tuition and fee exemptions to qualified veterans attending Texas public colleges and universities. In 2009, voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing veterans to pass that exemption on to their dependent child or spouse.
“I am proud that Texas honors its military families for their sacrifices and dedication to our country by providing them with higher education options through the Hazlewood Act. We must ensure that this program is fully funded,” said Fletcher.
The Hazlewood Act is not paid for by the state, so costs are absorbed by the universities. In order to fund this program, the institution must pass this expense on to each student through increased tuition costs or reduce expenses. In 2011 alone, Texas colleges and universities provided $58 million in tuition and fees to fund the Act.
HB 830 will assist universities in paying for the Hazelwood Act through existing tuition set-aside funds. Currently, there is a required additional 20% tuition cost on each student in excess of $46 per semester credit hour. This 20% is a state required minimum and may be higher depending on the institution’s governing board. This is effectively a fee placed on every student paying tuition at that university. The first 5% is dedicated to the Texas B-On-Time Loans and the remaining funds are used to fund financial assistance for qualified students.
“This set-aside is clearly a hidden tax on students wishing to further their own education. We should not burden our children with an added 20% student debt upon graduation,” Fletcher said. “Furthermore, many students cannot afford to attend college without student loans, meaning one student will be paying interest on another student’s education for the next 10 years of their lives. The state is effectively pricing some students out of an education and punishing those whose parents have been saving for a college education since their child’s birth. By rededicating some of these tuition fees we can help lower the cost of education for all while at the same time funding the benefits that voters and I have supported for our Texas veterans.”
HB 830 will allow each institution’s governing board the decision to eliminate or continue the set-aside fund up to 15% of a student’s tuition costs, but that amount must first be used to fund the Hazlewood Act. The remainder of the funds will then be dedicated to providing assistance to students with financial need. The university does not have the option to opt out of participating in the Hazlewood Act.
The bill does not affect the 5% set-aside for the Texas B-On-Time loan program.
You can check status of filed bills by going to http://www.legis.state.tx.us.
STOP TEXAS SET ASIDES
Taxpayers and Students Paying for Illegal Immigrant College Education
HOUSTON –The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recently released a report, “Eligibility for In-State Tuition and State Financial Aid Programs”, that discusses how students, including illegal immigrants, can use residency status to pay lower tuition and be eligible for state financial aid. The Coordinating Board estimates that $23.6 M in state and institutional financial aid was provided to these students in 2009. Of that, $17.7 million went to pay for the education of college students who could be in the United States illegally. Even more perplexing is that some of these funds come from tuition set asides – an embedded tax on the tuition paid by students of all Texas public universities.
In 2001, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1403 that made several changes to the Texas Education Code, including creating a path for non-U.S. citizens who did not claim residency status with the federal government to gain access to in-state tuition rates at Texas public institutions of higher education. These state laws attempt to circumvent the federal law by simply not asking students whether they are in the US legally. To qualify, the student must have lived with a Texas parent or guardian for 36-months up to high school graduation and sign an affidavit promising the intent to apply for permanent resident status as soon as they are able to do so. However, State law does not delegate authority to any entity to monitor whether students are complying with the content or provisions of the affidavit and no evidence has been obtained to indicate that anyone is monitoring these affidavits.
The THECB reports that in 2009 14,292 students used the provisions of TEC 54.052(a)(3) to qualify for in-state tuition rates and meet the residency requirements for state financial aid programs. Of these students, 3,716 were not legal U.S. residents and were required to complete affidavits. These same students received over 7,400 financial aid awards in 2009. Currently, affidavits are the only way to estimate the number of illegal immigrant students taking advantage of the program as the THECB does not track this information.
Students seeking financial aid that are non-U.S. citizens, who are ineligible to apply for federal student aid, who can meet the Texas state residency requirements under 54.052 and 54.053 of the Texas Education Code can complete the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA) in lieu of the FAFSA form. These students can then compete for state funds without being U.S. Citizens or legal U.S. residents and for all state financial aid programs with the exception of the B-On-Time loan program and Early High School Graduation Scholarship Program. An interesting twist is that some of these state financial aid programs, like the Texas Public Education Grant, are funded by Tuition Set Asides taken each semester from every student’s tuition.
The tuition set asides, created by House Bill 3015 in 2003, requires all public universities set aside a certain percentage (20% for undergraduate students, 15% for graduate students) of every student’s tuition each semester to fund needs-based financial assistance programs for Texas residents, including students qualifying as Texas Residents under the provisions of TEC 54.052. This means that a Texas student paying $2,500 per semester in tuition will have $500 of their tuition set aside each semester for financial assistance programs under HB 3015 which could be going to illegal immigrants.
As the costs associated with higher education have continued to rise, more students and families are struggling to pay for college and must find additional funding sources to meet the growing costs. Yet many of these families are unaware that a significant portion of their tuition is used to provide financial assistance to other students, including illegal immigrants. It seems to be a different story for illegal immigrants, who paid only $9.5 M of the $27.2 M (34%) out of pocket for tuition and fees in 2009. Taxpayers and students were responsible for paying the remaining $17.7 M tuition and fee costs for these potentially illegal immigrant students.
Stop Texas Set Asides is an organization of current and former Texas college students who were shocked to find out that 20% of our college tuition had been “set aside”, without our knowledge, to fund another’s education. Stop Texas Set Asides is working to inform college students across the state of Texas about this hidden tax on education and put this practice to an end.
For Immediate Release: July 14, 2010
Texas Higher-Ed Students Face Ambition Tax
HOUSTON – In 2003, the Texas Legislature passed HB 3015 which deregulated tuition and required all public universities to set aside a certain percentage of every student’s tuition each semester to fund needs-based financial assistance programs for Texas residents.
This means that a Texas student paying $2,500 per semester in tuition will have $500 of their tuition set aside each semester for financial assistance programs under HB 3015. Students are obligated to pay into the fund even if they themselves receive some kind of financial aid. Over four years, the student will pay $4,000 into this program – a substantial amount considering that many students pay for college through student loans, requiring interest payments. In fact, if the student financed all of their tuition they would owe an additional $550 in interest on the tuition that was set asides for another student.
Tuition deregulation created two parts to tuition: statutory and designated.
Statutory tuition is the rate that the state mandates colleges to charge, and is the same for all public higher education institutions. It is currently $50 per semester hour for in-state students and $327 for out-of-state students. 15% of graduate and undergraduate statutory tuition is set aside and reserved for the Texas Public Educational Grant and Emergency Tuition and Fee Loans.
Designated tuition is determined by each institution. According to the Texas Education Code, there is no limit on how much designated tuition can be charged. Universities are required to set aside 15% of graduate and undergraduate designated tuition that exceeds of $46 per semester credit hour, and finances needs-based financial assistance programs selected at the discretion of each university. In the 2008-09 term $100 million in tuition was set aside from students for this purpose.
An additional 5% is set aside from undergraduate designated tuition to fund the Texas B-On-Time Loan Program. Set asides collected for this program go to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which controls the program. Although the B-On-Time program awards loans to both private and public institutions, only public institutions are required to set aside students’ tuition. This creates an unfair burden for students attending public institutions by forcing them to share the bill for other students attending private institutions.
Since 2003, tuition rates have increased 86%. As the costs associated with higher education have continued to rise, more students and families are struggling to pay for college and must find additional funding sources to meet the growing costs. Yet many of these same students are unaware that a significant portion of their tuition is used to provide financial assistance to other students.
Not all students benefiting from tuition set aside programs are legal Texas residents. In 2001 HB 1403 enacted a loophole for non-legal Texas residents allowing students seeking financial aid that are non-U.S. citizens, who are ineligible to apply for federal student aid, to meet the Texas state residency requirements and can complete the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA) in lieu of the FAFSA form. These students can then compete for state funds without being U.S. Citizens or legal U.S. residents and makes them eligible for financial aid programs including the Texas Public Education Grant, the Texas Grant, and Texas State Exemption Programs.
Students of Texas universities graduate with the 4th largest amount of average debt after obtaining a four-year degree in the country. Texas Commissioner of Higher Education, Raymund Paredes, says that the average Texas student graduates with about $20,000 in student loans- a figure he said has roughly doubled in the last decade.