Scholarship fund created, but goal scaled back
In 2009, Gov. Rick Perry announced he wanted to supplement the state"s Texas-Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program -- special academies and other efforts for students in grades six through twelve -- with college scholarships.
"I propose the creation of a $100 million STEM Challenge Scholarship Fund for students seeking degrees or certificates in the STEM fields,” Perry said Oct. 15, 2009. Students watching his announcement applauded. "I think a couple of applications just came in,” Perry said.
Perry announced at the same time that he wanted to double the number of those academies, another promise we recently updated. Visit http://bit.ly/perryometer to see that rating.
And did the $100 million scholarship fund come to be?
Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier pointed us to House Bill 2910, which was approved by the 2011 Legislature and signed into law by Perry. The measure, authored by state Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, authorizes the scholarship fund. But there"s no indication of $100 million in award monies.
Lawmakers didn"t appropriate state revenue for the scholarship fund, nor does the law authorizing the scholarships say how how large the fund should be. Rather, it directs the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to award the scholarships "subject to available funding” from state revenue, gifts or grants.
Frazier told us that, mindful of the state"s revenue troubles, Perry sought $50 million to start the scholarship fund -- half of his original promised amount. After lawmakers did not pony up Perry"s requested amount, another funding source surfaced: On July 21, 2011, Perry announced a $25 million donation to the fund from the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation, created by the Legislature in 1979 to guarantee student loans and now called simply TG Corp.
Higher Education Coordinating Board spokesman Dominic Chavez told us in telephone and email interviews that the board approved rules in January 2012 to structure and administer the scholarships.
If TG authorizes spending some or all of its donation following the board"s rules at its March 2012 board meeting, Chavez said, community colleges could be getting grants from the Coordinating Board this fall. The colleges would then offer scholarships from the grant money, he said.
So, $25 million looks to be in the T-STEM scholarship pipeline -- a quarter of what Perry promised in fiscally rosier times. We rate this result a COMPROMISE.
Gov. Rick Perry, state press release, "Gov. Perry Announces Program to Improve and Expand T-STEM Academies," October 15, 2009
Email and telephone interviews with Catherine Frazier, deputy press secretary, Texas governor's office, February 16-27, 2012
82nd Texas Legislature, HB 2910, http://www.legis.state.tx.us
Gov. Rick Perry, state press release, "T-STEM Challenge Scholarship Receives $25 Million Donation from Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation,” July 21, 2011
Email and telephone interviews with Dominic Chavez, senior director for external relations, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, February 22-28, 2012
Email and telephone interviews with John Fitzpatrick, executive director of Educate Texas, February 29, 2012