In recent weeks, the military veterans who so proudly and bravely put their lives on the line for our country have heard a disquieting message from our state's institutions of higher education: They have been told that they and their children are a "burden" upon our public universities and colleges.Specifically, there have been reports that the Hazlewood Legacy Program is starting to place an unbearable strain on these schools. The Hazlewood Act is the Texas law providing veterans with tuition and fee exemptions at public universities and colleges, and the Legacy Program is a 2009 amendment allowing veterans to transfer unused Hazlewood benefits to their children.In an interview with The Bryan-College Station Eagle, Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin called the burden "extraordinary." That word "burden" was used again by a Houston Chronicle reporter, with Loftin saying, "We're being squeezed."Well, as the proud author of the Legacy Act, let me offer you the other side. With the utmost respect to Loftin and his fellow college administrators, fingers are being pointed in the wrong direction.First, Hazlewood is not causing the financial burdens of our public universities and colleges. The blame for that falls squarely at the feet of the Texas Legislature and our leadership. Let's be real. In formulating the current budget during the 2011 Legislature, our leaders and lawmakers, obsessed with a cuts-only mentality, slashed millions from each university and college despite the objections of many of my pro-higher education colleagues and me. UT Austin lost $92 million for the biennium, Texas A&M $35.8 million and Texas Tech $61 million, among other schoolsIn the Eagle, an A&M faculty member says, "I certainly have no problems with veterans' families having those benefits, but for the state not to fund it is absolutely outrageous."But the problem isn't that the Legislature didn't fund Hazlewood -- it's that since 2003, we have eroded funding for our universities and colleges, period.Second, Hazlewood is not new -- veterans have been entitled to these benefits since 1923, so the potential for vets to enroll has been there for decades, as has the schools' ability to plan for them.The only new part is the Legacy Act, which allows the veterans' hard-earned benefits, if unused, to be designated to their children. The entire family serves, not just the service member in uniform. So were the institutions hoping that veterans would not use their benefits? Or that they would die (most likely from battle wounds or related health problems) before they had the opportunity to use them? I can't imagine this is the case.A&M's Hazlewood "burden" has jumped to $7 million. Similarly, UT Austin's is $4.4 million, UT San Antonio $6.5 million and other schools report similar numbers. But let's put some perspective on this: The Longhorns' head football coach is paid $5.2 million per year. Their basketball coach is paid $2.2 million, and the Aggies' football coach $2 million.Now, I'm a die-hard sports fan. And yeah, I know -- those athletic programs have their own budgets and don't use taxpayer dollars. But with that kind of money in school coffers, can no resources be found for veterans' scholarships? What does that say about our priorities?If there's blame, let's put it where it belongs -- with the members of the Legislature who have refused to invest in higher education, including that of children whose fathers and mothers have given so much for us.These veterans have made sacrifices for our country that many of us wouldn't even consider. Many return home with devastating and permanent medical disabilities. And they often return home with invisible wounds, changed forever by their experiences. Too many don't come home at all. Their children have sacrificed, as well, often changing schools because of deployment.These brave men and women do not deserve to be called a burden -- and neither do their children.State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio is chairwoman of the Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee.