Now that the 82nd Legislature and its subsequent special session are over, I’d like to give you an update.
The Legislature passed bills that are designed to make textbooks more affordable to our students, to make the financial aid application process more user-friendly, to improve student success, to provide graduate fellows with insurance coverage, and to relieve some of the costly burdens of state regulation of higher education.
But for UT Austin and our state’s other public universities, the biggest news is the budget.
The state revenue shortfall resulted in cuts throughout government, including higher education. UT Austin’s budget was reduced by $92 million for the biennium, which includes the 2011-2012 and the 2012-2013 fiscal years. That translates into about a 16.5% reduction in our state support.
This action extends a decades-long trend — UT Austin increasingly relies on resources other than state revenue. In the fiscal year ending this August, state support to UT Austin amounts to about 14% of our annual budget. In 2011-2012, our state support will decline to about 13.3%.
It is important that we recognize that our elected representatives faced great challenges during the legislative session. There were no easy solutions. I thank our friends in the Legislature as well as all of you who voiced your support for higher education.
Fortunately, we anticipated the state budget shortfall, and UT Austin has been preparing for these cuts for almost two years. My office, for example, has reduced total spending by more than 10% by trimming entertainment, discretionary programs, and staff.
But make no mistake; a $92-million budget cut will affect our core academic mission. While we have done our best to protect UT’s academic programs, our students will encounter reduced student services, course offerings, and financial aid. Our faculty and staff will have to do more with less, and we will be forced to eliminate jobs. I will share more details about the consequences of these cuts as we move forward.
I recently announced that we will provide modest merit-based salary increases for some faculty and staff. Funding for this has been created internally through our austerity. Remaining competitive for faculty and staff talent is one of our top strategic priorities. To allow our talent base to erode would betray our Constitutional mandate to be “a university of the first class” and shortchange the young people who will lead Texas in the future.
The most important message is this. We are resolved to pursue our vision for UT Austin, and this requires change. We are reinventing the way we do certain things, such as harnessing technology to teach more effectively and more efficiently. We are aggressively commercializing intellectual property and developing other revenue streams. We are working daily to streamline our operations and to make our campus more energy efficient and sustainable. And we are collaborating with other universities across the nation to define the public research university of the future.
But some things never change, such as our commitment to education and to nurturing the people and the research that change the world.
I have heard from many of you in recent months. I cannot express how grateful I am for your ongoing support. Thank you.
The University of Texas at Austin