Budget cuts may slash financial aid for thousands

By Sarah Friesen – 

One in five Tarleton State University students will lose grants next year if budget cuts approved by the Texas House and Senate finance committees become law, a university spokesman said Wednesday.

“Financial aid for students was cut substantially,” spokesman Rod Davis said.  “If state-supported scholarships are cut as heavily as currently proposed, we would have approximately 1,000 fewer grants for students next fall, with a worst case scenario of up to 2,000 fewer.”

Tarleton’s current enrollment is about 9,300 students.

Davis said the budget numbers remain fluid.

“The budget itself is undergoing ongoing modification, as there is considerable difference in the House and Senate appropriations,” he said.  “So I would describe this as an estimate.”

Davis said the proposed cuts are “a particular concern for Tarleton students because nearly 80 percent of our students receive financial aid… about 75 percent of our students are on federal loans.”

Whatever the cuts turn out to be, Tarleton students said it would make their lives more difficult.

“I am very concerned.  I have waited 6 years to go to school now, but the budget cuts may affect my chances of finishing,” said Lance McFarlin, a sophomore Communications major.

Monica Pierce, a junior and Broadcast Journalism major said, “I will still continue going to school, I am concerned about paying off debt after graduation.”

The situation has worsened since the beginning of the semester when university officials projected the cuts would eliminate grants for an estimated 700 students, totaling $734,638.  These cuts come from the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) and the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) grant.

It is not immediately clear how the budget cuts might affect grants, scholarships, or financial aid.

Davis’ comments in an e-mail Wednesday echo information in an online Q & A recap of meetings Dottavio recently held with various university departments.

According to the recap,”the final outcome of the budget remains in flux until the legislative session closes in late May or possibly through special sessions into the summer.

“The mandate for universities is to provide plans for meeting budget reduction targets for fiscal years 2012-2013. For Tarleton, that is estimated to be about 18 percent less than the budget for the current 2010-2011 biennium or approximately $11.1 million, based on the latest legislative plan,” the recap said.

Additional editing by Jed Donahue

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