Unrealistic expectations

Francis D. Fisher

Students can contribute valuable information to the debate on raising tuition but only if they better understand the basic problem of higher education finance: It costs ever more to provide the same kind of instruction. Because workers in industry are more productive and are paid more, we match that increased pay at the University to keep our labor force — even if they teach as before.

President William Powers Jr. tells us that since 1990, costs of instruction at UT have risen at an annual rate of 2.8 percent after adjusting for inflation.

Yet the student input to the tuition debate, as reported in The Daily Texan last week, is a recommendation that increased tuition be used “to improve faculty, career services and advising and guarantee smaller classes.”

UT does have choices and student opinion should influence them. Do students want to raise tuition to continue the same kind of instruction, though that will surely increase student debt and make UT increasingly a college for the rich? Or should UT reduce its offerings and in what ways — perhaps shifting more learning to secondary schools (as calculus has been shifted in recent years) or to computer-based leaning programs that use less manpower? Unfortunately, the student position — that if you raise tuition, then give us more — is unrealistic.

— Fisher is a Senior Research Fellow at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs