College dorm roomThe Texas State Legislature and Gov. Rick Perry are working to balance the state budget by reducing spending, which means cuts to all government programs. That could include major cuts to community colleges and state financial aid programs.

In the House version of the 2012 budget, four community colleges -- Ranger College, Odessa College, Brazosport College and Frank Phillips College in Borger -- could lose funding.While the Senate's proposed budget preserves these colleges, both House and Senate versions of the budget include significant cuts to financial aid programs, including Texas Grants, the B-On-Time Program, Texas Educational Opportunity Grants, Tuition Equalization Grants and Texas College Work Study.

Texas spends more than $1 billion on financial aid. Proposed spending on financial aid will be reduced by several hundred million dollars. The House proposes eliminating $431 million of aid while the Senate proposes eliminating $381 million.

This means that qualified students who need help paying for school may not find the financial aid they need. The number of students receiving need-based Texas grants would decline from 86,830 to 27,135 by 2013 under both proposals because there would be no new awards.

Both House and Senate proposals would cut work-study funding 41% and new scholarships for students at top of his or her class would be cut. Existing scholarships would be renewed.

"We have begun the challenging work of reconciling the House and Senate versions of the budget, Perry said at a press conference, "on our way to an agreement that reflects our key priorities and ensures our state will be financially strong in the years to come."

The governor and legislators are committed to balancing the budget by working with existing revenue and not by raising taxes or going into debt. The budget must be finalized by Sept. 1, when the state's new fiscal year begins. No matter what is finally agreed upon, it seems big changes are in store for Texans seeking advanced degrees.

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