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Fri Apr 13, 2012, 09:37 AM

Blame legislative cuts for 'burden' of veterans

Blame legislative cuts for 'burden' of veterans

By State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

Updated 06:51 p.m., Friday, March 23, 2012
In recent weeks, the military veterans who so proudly and bravely put their lives on the line for our country have heard a disquieting message coming from our state's institutions of higher education: They have been told that they and their children are a "burden" upon our public universities and colleges.

Specifically, there have been reports that the Hazlewood Legacy Program is starting to place an unbearable strain on these schools. The Hazlewood Act is the Texas law providing veterans with tuition and fee exemptions to public universities and colleges, and the Legacy Program is a 2009 amendment allowing veterans to transfer unused Hazlewood benefits to their children.

In an interview with the Bryan-College Station Eagle, Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin said the burden was "extraordinary." That word "burden" was used again in a Houston Chronicle story, with Loftin stating, "we're being squeezed."

Well, as the proud author of the Legacy Act, let me offer you the other side. With the utmost respect to President Loftin and his fellow college administrators, fingers are being pointed in the wrong direction.

First, Hazlewood is not what is causing the financial burdens of our public universities and colleges. The blame for that falls squarely at the feet of the Texas Legislature and our leadership. Let's be real. In formulating the current budget during the 2011 Legislature, our leaders and lawmakers, obsessed with a cuts-only mentality, slashed millions from each university and college, despite the objections of many of my pro-higher education colleagues and me. For example, UT-Austin lost $92 million for the biennium, Texas A&M $35.8 million and Texas Tech lost $61 million.


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