Higher education, lower expense: Tuition equalization grants

SMU students at the Texas Capitol with Rep. Morgan Meyer, R-Dallas, during TEG Advocacy Day on March 27, 2019. Photo by Kendall Johnson

We at Southern Methodist University applaud the education funding focus dominating the current session of the Texas Legislature. It is important that lawmakers address teacher compensation and other K-12 issues — and we trust this focus will carry over into higher education and include support for the 27,000 Texas resident students who benefit from the Texas Tuition Equalization Grant (TEG) Program.

SMU is one of 42 non-profit, regionally accredited institutions affiliated with ICUT — the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas. Ever since the program’s 1971 start, TEG grants have been a critical funding component for our disadvantaged students. While the roughly $3,500 average individual grants help pay college expenses, they indirectly save the state of Texas money. The average appropriation for a student at a state school is approximately twice that, at nearly $7,000 — and that doesn’t even take into account how many taxpayer dollars would be necessary to build and staff additional state institutions to serve those nearly 27,000 (1,259 of them attend SMU) private school students if they were to lose their grants and transfer to public institutions.

TEG grants broaden college options for low- and middle-income Texans, while helping private institutions meet the needs of the state’s rapidly growing student population. The program reduces taxpayer costs for higher education. Continuing support for private schools is a win-win for all Texans, because students who receive these grants come from almost every Texas county. TEG recipients are often minority students who range, financially, from very poor to middle-income, but TEG students graduate at higher rates than students at state universities. 

Texas’ future is tied to the strength of its institutions of higher learning. For Texas to remain competitive and innovative in this knowledge-based economy, every educational opportunity must be open to our students.

Disclosure: Southern Methodist University has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

R. Gerald Turner

President, Southern Methodist University