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Thursday, January 20, 2011

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Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., Responds to House Bill 1

AUSTIN – University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., issued the following statement today (Jan. 20) with regard to the proposed budget for the next biennium outlined in House Bill 1 and its impact on the UT System and its nine academic and six health care institutions.

Statement from Chancellor Cigarroa:

The proposed budget cuts to higher education and health care institutions outlined in House Bill 1 are dramatic and deep and will have immediate and future devastating consequences for our students, patients, faculty, staff and the communities of Texas.

In early 2010, most state agencies received a directive to cut 5 percent of general revenue from their budgets. UT System institutions implemented cuts totaling more than $175 million while accommodating a record enrollment of students, many of whom were first-generation college students from underserved regions of Texas. These reductions were disproportionately felt by higher education institutions. Even though universities in Texas account for 12.5 percent of the state’s budget, the cuts we suffered accounted for 41 percent of the total mandated reductions.

We have now been required to cut an additional 2.5 percent in the current biennium and to prepare plans for an additional 10 percent cut for the next biennium. We cannot continue to absorb cuts without directly and negatively impacting all whom we serve, and House Bill 1 proposes even more cuts. As an enterprise predominantly composed of people devoted to serving the needs of our students, patients and communities across the state, the additional budget cuts will result in more layoffs of faculty and staff and the reduction of services to students and patients throughout Texas.

Every effort will be made to protect teaching, research and mission-critical services. University research holds particular significance in Texas’ future. It helps determine the degree to which our state will remain innovative and is a key element to our economic prosperity. These proposed reductions not only imperil research, they could force enrollment caps and inevitably would result in fewer course offerings and the elimination of entire programs at academic and health institutions. The drastic reduction for financial aid programs for our students also concerns us greatly.

The additional cuts will also result in reduced levels of service to patients, particularly those enrolled in Medicaid. Our health institutions will not be able to train more physicians, nurses and other health professionals at a time when Texas has a critical shortage of such positions. 

The UT System has been focused on the need for greater efficiency and productivity for several years, and has tried to anticipate what this budget cycle would bring. We have taken proactive measures that have produced more than $1.2 billion in savings and avoided costs over the last five years. At the same time, we have instituted initiatives that are improving graduation and completion rates and productivity outcomes.

A detailed assessment of the budget cuts is under way at each UT institution, and each president will be empowered to manage reductions in a manner which best meets the respective institution’s needs.

In the meantime, we will work closely with our elected officials with the hope of letting them know that while we are doing our part to address the state’s budget shortfall, we must be mindful that cutting our institutions again in a disproportionate way will have direct and negative consequences on students, patients, and our workforce, and it will not serve the state of Texas well. 

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