By Scott Cason
COMMERCE, TX—The $8.8 million budget reduction proposed under the latest version of Senate Bill 1 (S.B.1.) in the Texas State Legislature has the potential to halt planned enrollment growth and diminish the ability of Texas A&M University-Commerce to continue to deliver a high-quality, affordable and accessible education.
The greatest impact of the proposed budget reduction under S.B.1. will be on the university’s ability to recruit and retain faculty. A&M-Commerce President, Ray Keck, who is scheduled to testify before the Senate Finance Committee this week stated, “These cuts would have a devastating effect on our mandate to grow. If they remain as projected, we may have to look at capping enrollment since we will lose a large number of faculty lines.” A projected loss of more than 50 faculty positions will affect ongoing efforts to serve current students, increase the time it will take to complete a degree, and raise cost of attendance and associated student debt. In addition, implementation of S.B.1. is expected to impact the university’s ability to support minority mentorship programs, meet regional workforce demands, and deliver on plans to expand program offerings in critical fields including nursing and engineering.
S.B.1. is also expected to adversely affect plans to expand competency-based education statewide. The Institute for Competency-Based Education is one program expected to be most impacted by the proposed budget reduction. A&M-Commerce’s competency-based program, the Texas Affordable Baccalaureate (TAB), provides an affordable pathway for students with little or no former college experience: the first accredited program of its kind in Texas. In the fall of 2016, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board presented A&M-Commerce with the Star Award, recognizing the “exceptional contributions” of the program towards reducing the future cost of higher education. Under S.B.1., the program stands to lose nearly $1.5 million in funding. An additional anticipated $1 million reduction in funding will impact the university’s Dual Credit program and is expected to affect nearly 582 students who count on the program to reduce the future cost of attending college after high school. A&M-Commerce also delivers accessible educational experiences through a range of high-quality online program offerings. The anticipated budget reduction resulting from S.B.1. is expected to adversely impact online program support and new program development, which could affect approximately 4,000 online students.