The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M pitcher Kaiden Wilson (30) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Tennessee at the NCAA Men’s College World Series finals at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) reacts in the dugout after Texas A&M’s game against Tennessee at the NCAA Men’s College World Series finals at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, June 24, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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Texas A&M pitcher Kaiden Wilson (30) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Tennessee at the NCAA Men’s College World Series finals at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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Bowen: more money needed

Texas A&M is facing a bleak financial future of growing deficits and deteriorating academic programs unless a proposed “excellence” fee is implemented, A&M President Dr. Ray M. Bowen said Wednesday.
At a sparsely attended open forum to discuss the issue, Bowen made the case for charging students a $30-per-credit-hour tuition fee that would only apply to new students, which, for a student taking 15 hours a semester, would mean an average of $400 more per semester.
The fee must be approved by the A&M System Board of Regents. Bowen informed the regents Aug. 29 that A&M is facing a $6.2 million budget shortfall this year and will be forced to hike student fees or cut spending.
“We could cut spending and hold off on the Vision 2020 initiatives, but I really don’t want to do that, because we’ll make A&M less competitive,” Bowen said. “The value of your degree depends on our ability to keep our programs on the cutting edge.”
A combination of new expenditures and limited funding from the state have contributed to the budget crunch, Bowen said. Faculty members will get a three percent salary increase, and staff members will receive a four percent increase. Although the staff raise is state mandated, the state is shouldering only half the cost, Bowen said. Also, the rising price of energy has resulted in an $8 million increase in the utilities budget.
Texas A&M also fared poorly in the 2001 Texas legislative session in comparison with other state schools, Bowen said. A&M received a 6 percent general revenue increase from the state, while other schools in the A&M System got a 9.5 percent increase, and the University of Houston received an 11.7 percent boost.
Because A&M (along with the University of Texas at Austin) have access to the Permanent University Fund, both schools are often excluded from competing for some state funds, Bowen said.
“The budget process is structured to the disadvantage of A&M and the University of Texas,” Bowen said. “There are no advocates for this kind of university, nobody to stand up and say that there should be some universities in Texas that are among the best in the nation.”
Because it is likely the state will continue shifting the cost of higher education to students, another similar fee increase will be needed in four or five years, Bowen said.
Some of the students at the forum were skeptical that the University had examined other options before raising fees.
“It (excellence fee) may be necessary, but they should at least consider budget cuts,” said John Spurlin, a junior engineering technology major.
Bowen said A&M was already operating at a high level of efficiency, and any cuts would severely degrade the quality of programs and services.
“A&M’s per student spending is 40 percent below other public schools at our level, and the fact that we’re still competing at that level demonstrates that we’re pretty efficient,” Bowen said.
If implemented, the excellence fee is expected to generate $9 million for the 2002-2003 fiscal year, and after four years, when most students will be paying the fee, it will bring in $30 million annually. However, Bowen said, rising deficits produced by spending committments such as staff and faculty raises will continue to devour all the fee revenue.
Bowen will discuss the fee proposal at the Oct. 26 Board of Regents meeting, but no action will be taken. Bowen said he hopes regents will approve the fee before year’s end, so prospective students can take the added expense into account.

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