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Financial Assistance 5


Recommendation

Texas should provide tuition exemptions for police officers enrolled in criminal science courses at state institutions of higher education.


Summary

Section 54.208 of the Texas Education Code provides tuition exemptions for paid firefighters enrolled in fire science courses in state institutions of higher education. Due to advances in police work, the exemption should be extended to peace officers enrolled in criminal science courses.

Police work has become more specialized. Many police departments rely on technical crime prevention and counseling to prevent crime. While the role of a police officer has changed, the educational opportunities for police officers have not kept up with these changes. Counter-terrorism efforts also add to the importance of crime fighting education and expertise. Many police departments also consider college degrees a major factor when promoting officers.[1]


Legislative Changes Required

The Texas Legislature would have to add a tuition exemption for peace officers enrolled in criminal science courses at state institutions of higher education to the Texas Education Code to implement this recommendation. Tuition exemptions would cover courses related to peace officer duties as determined by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. School fees, except for lab fees, would not be exempted.


Fiscal Impact

Based on current numbers, such as tuition costs and the number of licensed peace officers, it would cost $757,000 in General Revenue funds each year to implement this recommendation.

The fiscal impact estimates that 5.3 percent of Texas’ licensed peace officers would take $217 in exemptions each per year. That is the same percentage of firefighters who took the exemption in 2000, and the same amount of exemptions per firefighter for the year.


[1] Telephone interview with Sgt. Sean Mannix, vice president, Austin Police Association, Austin, Texas, September 27, 2001.