In a major victory for conservatives, the Texas Senate voted to massively reform Higher Education in the state and make it more affordable for citizens.
For years, conservatives have targeted tuition policy as an area in desperate need for reform and offered up two solutions: repealing the re-distributive tuition tax known as “tuition set asides” and freezing or “regulating tuition.” Last week, lawmakers scored a major victory by doing both.
Senate Bills 18 and 19 by Higher Education Chairman Kel Seliger (R–Amarillo) would repeal the mandate for universities to continue set asides and freeze tuition respectively. Both items were substantially amended and strengthened by State Sen. Charles Schwertner (R–Georgetown) who has established a solid reputation as a college affordability hawk.
Both issues had been marked as legislative priorities by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick who has led the charge on Higher Ed reform since his time in the Texas Senate. Patrick issued a video shortly after the measures passed, touting them as major conservative victories.
“For our state to continue to prosper, Texans must be able to obtain a quality education at a public institution at a cost they can afford,” said Patrick. “Two of my legislative priorities, Senate Bills 18 and 19, have passed the Texas Senate and will help us, and the families of Texas reach that goal.”
The passage of both bills was also applauded by the Young Conservatives of Texas.
“Senate Bills 18 and 19 are two major steps forward for college students and their families. By placing highly restrictive limits on when tuition can actually increase there is now greater potential for higher education to be more affordable for citizens,” said Allison Peregory, a board member of the organization. “Administrators will finally be more accountable for their spending habits and students will be further protected from having their dollars wasted.”
Though the measures have passed the Texas Senate they face an uphill battle in the state’s lower chamber where the ruling Democrat-coalition is opposed. Last month, House Speaker Joe Straus pushed back against calls for improvements in college affordability.
“The supply and demand seems to be working,” he said.
Both issues are also expected to be opposed by Straus’ Higher Education Committee Chairman, State Rep. JM Lozano of Kingsville. Lozano is a former Democrat who changed his party label in 2012, but didn’t really change his voting record.