Capitol Office: (512) 463-0564
District Office: (979) 848-1770
Monday, June 1, 2009

Bonnen Amendment Expands Student Access to Affordable Higher Education

Insider's Report Vol. 7, No. 22

Monday marked the official end of the 81st Legislative Session.  Despite new leadership and a 76-74 split in the House of Representatives, I worked hard to overcome the related challenges and passed many bills that reflect the interests of Brazoria County and the entire State of Texas.

I am incredibly proud of the role I played in passing important revisions to our Top Ten Percent automatic admissions law.  These changes have been years in the making, and I was able to help bring about a compromise among all parties by authoring an amendment to grant greater flexibility to these graduates.  This provision, in turn, decreases the burden on our major public universities.  The bill itself, SB 175, authorizes UT-Austin, who is most affected and restricted by our current automatic admission requirements, to limit Top Ten Percent admissions to 75 percent of its freshman class.

My amendment to SB 175 takes the innovative step of allowing any student admitted to a major state college or university -- not just Top Ten Percent students -- to delay their admission into that college or university while completing their core curriculum requirements at a junior college for a maximum of three years.  My proposal will allow these students to take advantage of more affordable and conveniently located community colleges while having the assurance that their spot at a major university is reserved for them once they complete their basics.

My amendment is an expansion upon a bill that I have authored for several sessions and was met with great enthusiasm.  I recognize the tremendous value and high-quality education offered by our local community colleges, and I want all students to be able to take advantage of this affordable and convenient opportunity.

In further support of higher education in the State of Texas, I worked to significantly increase financial aid for the TEXAS Grant program and the Texas Education Opportunity Grants program for community college students.  TEXAS Grant funding was increased by $186.4 million -- 44 percent -- totaling $614.3 million for 2010-11.  Texas Educational Opportunity Grants for community college students were increased by 71 percent -- $10 million -- totaling $24 million for 2010-11.  I also worked to expand financial aid based on merit by increasing funding for Top Ten Percent scholarships from $20 million to $54 million.

During the 81st Session, I passed many pieces of positive legislation that are important to my district, as well as initiatives that maintain Texas' leadership in job creation, education, conservative spending, and limited government.  I look forward to bringing you additional updates in the near future that further demonstrate my commitment to these goals.