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legislative trip
legislative trip
Photos by Marianne McBride Lewis

UTSA group visits state legislators to discuss higher education

(Feb. 9, 2005)--UTSA President Ricardo Romo and a group of UTSA students, alumni and staff headed north on Interstate 35 last week to participate in an afternoon of handshaking, photo opportunities and legislative visits designated each session as Orange and Maroon Legislative Day.

On this day, members of the UT and A&M families traditionally put aside their spirited rivalries and join forces to champion the benefits and needs of higher education in Texas.

Nineteen UTSA representatives split into two groups and with a log of appointments visited the Capitol offices of 13 representatives and state senators who represent the San Antonio area. The UTSA representatives were warmly welcomed and invited to talk about issues of particular importance.

Pictured in the top photo are UTSA senior Juaquin Zavala, Alumni Association past President Albert Estrada, Alumni Association President Linda Montgomery, UTSA senior Desiree Palacios, staff member Stephanie Miller, UTSA senior Becky Bromley, Rep. David Leibowitz, and UTSA junior Nicholas Lambert. In the lower photo, Sen. Judith Zaffirini visits with President Ricardo Romo.

Spokespersons for the group were Romo, Alumni Association President Linda Montgomery and Alumni Association past President Albert Estrada. Montgomery thanked each elected official for the work they are doing for all Texans with a reminder that funding shortfalls in higher education have strained UTSA resources.

"At 26,000 students, UTSA is the second largest UT component, and when compared with other systems, is just 4,000 students shy of Texas Tech enrollment figures," said Montgomery. "UTSA is working hard to do its part to close the gaps, yet the existing state funding formula for higher education is based on old figures -- in this case on an enrollment of 20,000 students." Montgomery urged lawmakers to vote for a fully funded higher education formula.

Romo spoke to UTSA's need for additional classrooms to handle the needs of a growing student body and championed tuition revenue bonds, particularly for a new engineering building.

Every official agreed that higher education is in dire straits but cautioned that reaching consensus on solutions will not be easy.

Rep. Frank Corte reminded the group of great controversy on tuition flexibility and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte discussed the diversity of opinion regarding property and business tax adjustments.

However, at the office of Rep. Jose Menendez a bright light surfaced when he said, "One of the most powerful things you have going for you is Texas State Demographer Steve Murdock. When you put Murdock in front of people, his numbers blow them away."

In addition to his duties as director of the Texas State Data Center at UTSA, Murdock is the Lutcher Brown Professor of Demography in the UTSA College of Business and director of the UTSA Institute for Demographic and Socioeconomic Research.

Students on the trip talked about their pride in UTSA, the education they are receiving and the hope that UTSA will continue to grow and thrive.

The UTSA groups visited state representatives Joaquin Castro, Frank Corte, Robert Puente, Jose Menendez, David Leibowitz, Carlos Uresti, Mike Villarreal, Trey Martinez-Fischer, Ruth Jones McClendon and state senators Jeff Wentworth, Judith Zaffirini, Frank Madla and Leticia Van de Putte.

Other UTSA representatives on the trip included UTSA students Brandy Hernandez; Alumni Association members Jim Montgomery, Yvonne Fernandez, Melissa Pipkin, Cathy Starnes and John Hill; and UTSA staff members Jane Findling, Marianne Lewis, Jennifer Storm and Albert Carrisalez.

--Marianne McBride Lewis

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