by Chuck Hempstead, TACT Legislative Director
The House Higher Ed Interim Committee met August 10 to pursue their interim charges in preparation for their Fall Report, which often influences legislation filed during the Session beginning in January. TACT made progress on its issue of recommending better state funding of the Hazelwood Act, which would reduce the unfunded mandate of universities absorbing forgone tuition of military veterans and their dependents. The $30 billion state budget surplus should also be able to address university deferred maintenance, but not unless our voices are louder than everyone else’s.
Higher Ed Commissioner Harrison Keller testified the inflation element most affecting students is off campus expenses such as food, housing and transportation. He will be asking for an additional $153 million in Texas Grants for the next biennium just to maintain the 68 percent of eligible Texas Grant recipients who receive assistance.
The committee was also updated on the progress of TRUE – Texas Reskilling and Upskilling Program – a TACT supported, targeted grant program to higher ed to provide quick education for high-need, middle skilled employment opportunities. The first grants were awarded in July.
Since the TACT days of Faye Thames and Tom Hoffman – 30 years ago – I have supplied staff work including legislative representation. It has been the highlight of my career. Now that my business partner Liz Williams is TACT executive director, and doing a fabulous job, I have informed the TACT Board that I will be retiring at the end of this year.
Thank you for the opportunity to work with you for the improvement of higher education in Texas. Elsewhere we can list highlights, but this is the place to thank volunteers and Board Members for their support and contributions to the issues you have told us are important to you. I’m proud of what we have accomplished. I wish you all continued success and will always be available through Liz if I may be helpful.