A Message From President Loren J. Blanchard: Update on 2023 Legislative Session Outcomes
Dear Faculty and Staff,
Thank you for another successful academic year at the University of Houston-Downtown. This year provided continuous evidence that our students and alumni contribute to the Houston metroplex in remarkable ways from combatting homelessness and addressing mental health issues to investing in literacy and neighborhood development in our great city. The success of our Gators is a direct reflection of your commitment to teaching and serving our students with excellence.
Among our many accomplishments this past academic year, I am proud of our student, faculty, and staff representation during UHD Day at the State Capitol. As you know, the 88th Legislative session for the state of Texas has now closed. In this letter, I provide an update on a few critical outcomes for our university. Please be aware that these bills are awaiting Governor Greg Abbott’s signature.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Beginning January 2024, the final version of Senate Bill 17 prohibits public universities in Texas from establishing or maintaining a DEI office or employing individuals who perform DEI duties. The bill also prohibits using DEI statements or preferences in hiring. The bill mandates periodic reviews of each university’s practices and policies by the state auditor to ensure compliance and impose penalties for noncompliance. You can find our UHS General Counsel’s summary of this bill and read the full text online.
The UHS Board of Regents will collaborate with other Texas university systems to ensure consistent interpretation and implementation of the provisions of this legislation. Please know that as a Hispanic-Serving and Minority-Serving Institution, our commitment to student achievement will not change. We will continue to research and implement best practices that address our students’ unique needs and optimize their success within the bounds of SB 17.
Faculty Tenure: Senate Bill 18, as passed by the legislature, allows universities to grant tenure but requires faculty to have a periodic comprehensive evaluation. The provisions for these evaluations closely align with the policy on post-tenure review passed by the faculty and adopted by the UHS Board of Regents in late 2022. A summary of the bill from our General Counsel is available online, and the full text of the final legislation can also be found online. As a university, we will continue in our efforts to engage and invest in faculty as an employer of choice committed to excellence in teaching and the creation and dissemination of impactful knowledge.
Budget Appropriation: In a new Affordability Plan, the legislature allocated an increase in the base formula funding for universities across the state of Texas. This allocation is below the requested $1 billion by the Texas university system chancellors. The legislation includes a condition that we not raise undergraduate tuition for two years. The Affordability Plan provides UHD with an additional $1.8 million in recurring State funding for fiscal year 2024 and additional one-time general revenue funds to support student success initiatives. Though we were unsuccessful in securing funding for UHD’s special item requests during this legislative session, the plan does keep the cost of education affordable for our students.
However, without a significant increase in enrollment and with costs continuing to rise, flat tuition and fees rates will yield less revenue than the prior fiscal year. In consideration of the anticipated revenue loss, we will budget tuition and fees revenue for the 2024 fiscal year with a potential decline in student credit hours for the Fall 2023 and Spring 2024 semesters. Additional details regarding the budget are forthcoming, including a potential merit salary increase. Please know that we are working to strike a balance between our rising costs and decreasing revenue, and we are doing so with the needs of our students, faculty, and campus community in mind.
Thank you for your continued dedication to the University of Houston-Downtown, our students, and their communities.
Loren J. Blanchard, Ph.D.
President, University of Houston-Downtown