Orange and Maroon Legislative Day is a one-day event in Austin during the Texas Legislature’s session that brings together a grassroots network of former students, current students and friends of Texas A&M University and The University of Texas at Austin to advocate for our state’s higher education system, particularly Texas A&M and UT.
This year, the event will be on Feb. 15, 2017.
Learn more at omld.aggienetwork.com and find ways to engage with advocacy efforts year-round at www.aggienetwork.com/advocacy through the Texas A&M Advocacy Network, a programming effort housed by The Association of Former Students.
A recent article by Texas A&M President Michael K. Young in The Association’s Texas Aggie magazine discusses the importance of the event and of this year’s goals:
As we prepare for the 85th Texas legislative session, there is a challenging fiscal environment throughout the state. It is important now more than ever for Texas A&M University to join again with the University of Texas at Austin to affirm how research universities enhance the lives of Texans. This joint effort each biennium has become known as Orange and Maroon Legislative Day.
The session presents numerous challenges for Orange and Maroon Legislative Day 2017. The task ahead is crystal clear for our two universities: State support matters, the work of Texas A&M matters, and your engagement with elected officials matters.
When I first came to Texas, I was so impressed with the level of state support committed for our two universities, primarily embodied in the Texas Constitution. Both of our universities have a constitutional charge to be institutions of “the first class.” This designation began in the 19th century, and along with the constitutional creation of the Permanent University Fund, it has allowed Texas A&M and UT-Austin students, faculty and former students, to continue boldly serving and positively impacting the citizens of Texas. It is unimaginable to think of what Texas A&M and UT-Austin would be without the PUF—all due to the foresight of the state’s founders and preserved by today’s leaders. And for that we say thank you!
Equally important are the state appropriations we receive every two years during the legislative session, primarily through the general academic and health-related institutions funding formulas. For Texas A&M’s main campus, approximately 20 percent of our operating budget comes from the state, with over 80 percent of that coming through the base funding formulas. While the amount of state support may not seem significant when looking at Texas A&M’s entire budget, the fact remains that what Texas A&M receives from the state has dropped 50 percent over the last two decades.
While many states have retreated to arguably irrelevant support for their institutions of higher learning, Texas has not. However, shrinking support in our state has put pressure on tuition and fees. On an inflation-adjusted basis, overall state support from a per-student perspective has shrunk 20 percent since 2003 (when tuition was deregulated) to this past fall semester. Texas A&M has been among the most judicious with tuition increases. In fact, tuition and fees increased at a slower rate at Texas A&M after deregulation than the decade before. State support and tuition and fees are the main sources of funding for instruction and learning, the lifeblood of any university. They matter.
Another state funding initiative that matters to our two research universities is the performance-based Texas Research University Fund. Created in statute and funded last session, this research and faculty support fund provides over $37 million each year to Texas A&M ($41.7 million in 2016 and $37.4 million in 2017). For every $10 million in total research expenditures, a certain appropriation is made based on a funding rate. This fund was created solely for our two research universities and is the largest source of state funds outside of the funding formulas. If we don’t perform, we don’t get funded. However, the TRUF rate is key to both our institutions. Even if we perform better than in the previous session, there is no guarantee that we will be funded more. For Texas A&M and UT-Austin to attract and retain world-class faculty for life-changing research and transformational learning experiences for our students, robust funding for TRUF matters.
As we explain to our state leaders why their support matters, we also proudly let them know that we are efficient. As of 2016, Texas A&M’s administrative cost ratio—the indicator explaining administrative overhead to teaching and research—is the lowest in the state. At 3.6 percent, Texas A&M is a national leader in keeping administration at a minimum and constantly evaluating ways to continue investing as much money as possible into our core functions of teaching, service and research.
As I recently outlined to the Aggie family in my State of the University Address [see tx.ag/SOTU16], we are focused on three strategic imperatives that matter: Transformational Learning; Discovery and Innovation; and Impact upon the state, the nation and the world. Here is what we are doing, and want to do.
We want 100 percent of our students to have multiple transformational learning experiences during their time at Texas A&M. We want to offer students not only coursework but also transformational learning experiences like a campus-wide initiative with faculty to help increase student engagement and success in entry-level classes, helping professors develop learning strategies and approaches that genuinely enhance students’ intellectual capabilities, as well as develop skills and learning patterns that enhance their capacity to truly learn during the rest of their time at A&M and throughout the rest of their lives. Through class evaluations, grades in entry-level classes and success in follow-on courses, we’ll be able to measure its success as well.
Another example of transformational learning is ENMED, short for Engineering and Medicine, an innovative curriculum that teaches physicians to also be engineers. The coursework, through our Colleges of Engineering and Medicine in conjunction with the Houston Methodist Hospital, combines the practice of medicine with new technology, innovative training and problem-solving skills to enhance the quality and delivery of healthcare throughout the United States. Transformational learning experiences matter.
While these are just two examples of our strategic imperative to provide more transformational learning experiences, none of it is possible without a continued partnership and robust funding from the state.
Building upon our strategic imperatives of transformational learning and discovery and innovation are the results of a job done well—impact. Impact upon the state of Texas, the citizens of which invest in our ability to be here.
We have such impact in a multitude of ways. We launch into the world highly trained students with a passion and an ability to make the world a better place.
The sheer size of impact that we have is enormous. Consider some areas where we are impacting our state, like the Center for Urban School Partnerships through the College of Education and Human Development. It’s helping K-12 schools improve standards, teacher and student retention through training materials, on-call support and information that helps teachers in urban areas close the gap in performance between their schools and those of their suburban counterparts.
Another example of our impact is the Colonias Program through the College of Architecture, helping to transform some of Texas’ most underserved populations by strengthening their own capacity for sustainable community development, leading to the enhancement of the overall quality of life for residents living in these economically and infrastructure-challenged communities.
We cannot tell our officials how to vote, but we can tell them the consequences of decisions. Within Texas A&M’s funding request and priorities, we seek the necessary resources to transform lives of ordinary students and make them extraordinary citizens. Cuts in our state support will have consequences that will vary depending on the magnitude of the reductions. Any cut will unequivocally place pressure on our ability to provide quality transformational learning opportunities for students; research capabilities that aid in economic development and innovation— and ultimately affect our service and impact to the citizens of Texas. State funding matters.
State government will always face some type of difficult fiscal challenge or funding decision. Regardless of funding climate, it is imperative there always be continued support and investment in our research universities. This investment not only preserves our constitutional charge to be institutions of the “first class” for the citizens of Texas, but ensures we can continue transforming students into community leaders; creating jobs through innovation, discovery and entrepreneurship; building sustainable communities; and engaging in high-impact learning and service opportunities. An investment in Texas A&M and UT-Austin is an investment in the citizens of Texas—as they are primarily who we educate and who we serve and impact as research universities of the “first class” in the state of Texas.
As we prepare for the upcoming session and Orange and Maroon Legislative Day 2017, we embrace the opportunity of continuing a partnership with the state of Texas and to extending durable funding for research universities. State support for research universities matters. The work of Texas A&M matters. And equally important, your engagement with elected officials matters.
Joint Priorities For The 2017 Legislative Session
Maintain current formula funding rates (base funding) to cover statewide enrollment growth
- Formula funding is the foundation that public four-year institutions in Texas depend upon to provide high-quality teaching and support services for growing student populations, and to prepare them to meet the workforce needs of this state. The teaching function of these institutions is supported by two key sources of funding: state appropriations primarily through the formulas and students’ tuition and fees.
Maintain current rates for Texas Research University Fund
- The purpose of the Texas Research University Fund is to strengthen the competitiveness and performance of Texas A&M and UT-Austin to be in healthy competition with one another and with other nationally ranked universities. The proven way to compete successfully at a higher level is to recruit and retain the highest-performing faculty and students. The state Constitution charges these two institutions to serve their students and state’s citizens with the highest level of teaching and research. The TRUF helps us fulfill this charge.
This story was re-posted from The Texas Aggie Magazine with permission from The Association of Former Students.