Editorial: Legislation could widen state's achievement gap

San Antonio Express-News
Web Posted: 04/06/2005 12:00 AM CDT

The TEXAS Grant program, created in 1999, has been instrumental in increasing the number of Texans who go to college.

Since its inception, the program has helped 115,000 students attend college. They have received 235,000 grants worth $600 million.

Many of the grants have gone to poor, minority students who are the first in their families to go to college.

The University of Texas at San Antonio has 3,469 students who have been the recipients of $22.9 million of those funds.

State budget woes and tuition deregulation have hurt the program.

Last year's budget cuts and increased tuition costs caused 22,000 students to be dropped from the TEXAS Grant program. And more bad news could be on the way.

Legislation pending in Austin could change how that money is spent and have a detrimental effect on South Texas students.

One proposal would require students receiving a TEXAS Grant to graduate in four years and maintain a B average or face having to pay the money back.

Only 22.6 percent of all Texas students graduate in four years, and many do not have a B average.

The TEXAS Grant student usually has to work and lacks family financial support. On average, only 16.8 percent of TEXAS Grant students graduate in four years. Like many non-TEXAS Grant students, more than three-fourths of those receiving grants graduate after five years.

The state can't afford to cut off more college students who need the state's help. Education is economic development.

The TEXAS Grant program is working. Changing the rules will cause an estimated 32,000 students to lose their grants.

Lawmakers should leave the program as it is. The goal is to close the achievement gap, not widen it.