Thursday, November 3, 2011

Protect Loan Funding for Texas Students

In next week's state election, your vote can help Texas students fund their college education.

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, Texas voters will be asked to vote on 10 proposed changes to the Texas Constitution. One of those amendments is Proposition 3 that I told you about a few weeks ago.

Voting YES on Prop 3 will authorize the issuance of general obligation bonds to generate funding for the Hinson-Hazelwood Loan Program.

This program has given Texas families the option of affordable, fixed-rate student loans for more than 45 years.

The loan program is completely self-supporting and this proposition will cost taxpayers nothing. The debt is not paid with any state resources but by the student borrowers.

Voters have approved a total of $1.86 billion in bonds in seven separate election cycles dating back from 1965 to 2007. In 2007, $500 million in bonds was authorized, of which over half is still unused. In the history of the program, it has never had to use general revenue from the state to pay out the bonds.

This year, Prop 3 provides "evergreen authority" that would allow the student loan program to continue to issue bonds from now on, as long as the amount of outstanding loans doesn't exceed the $1.86 billion that Texas voters have already approved. This "evergreen authority" would save the cost of taxpayer-funded constitutional elections like this one from asking for permission to fund the bonds.

The Hinson-Hazelwood Student Loan Program will provide nearly $69 million in loans to Texans this year. LeTourneau students will receive $463,000 of this assistance. With a 5.25 fixed interest rate, these loans are a good deal for families.

This program is one important tool to families building a plan to pay for tuition. Student loans are one of the primary ways people pay for higher education despite budget cuts that have reduced education spending.

Since the Texas Constitution prohibits the state from taking on debt without an amendment to the constitution, voters must approve a state constitutional amendment to allow additional bond authorization to allow the Hinson-Hazelwood College Student Loan Program to continue to offer low-cost loans to students.

I hope you will make a note on your calendar to vote in favor of Prop 3 on Tuesday. We understand better than most the struggle of challenge of our students to pay for college at a time when federal and state grants are in the decline.

Let's protect this loan program for our students! Thanks for your consideration.

This week, I will be busy meeting with our LETU Board of Trustees who are in town for the board's semi-annual meeting. A ribbon cutting Thursday on the new South Hall and an Open House in our newly renovated Kielhorn Welding and Materials Joining Lab Friday are part of this week's activities.