The Pomp And Circumstance of TPAC

Wednesday’s open forum put an end to the motions of the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee, as it presented its proposal to the public. And that’s all the process consisted of — motions.

TPAC submitted a recommendation to President William Powers Jr. on Monday proposing a tuition increase of 2.6 percent for resident undergraduates and 3.6 percent for nonresident undergraduates and all graduate students. Powers, who attended the forum to listen to feedback, will review the committee’s recommendations and submit a proposal to the UT System Board of Regents by Dec. 15. The board will set tuition in March.

TPAC members said the regents gave directives to limit tuition increase requests to the change in the consumer price index and to tie all increases to improving four-year graduation rates. In many ways, the final product was already set, and the directives both compromised and excused the committee from really toying with the difficult questions.

During the last tuition-setting process in 2009, the committee’s meetings were completely closed to the public. This time around, TPAC allowed one Daily Texan reporter to interview members after the meeting.

The committee began having regular, one-hour meetings Oct. 25 and held fewer than 10 meetings by the time it released its report. TPAC members told the Texan reporter that they discussed operational costs, budget forecasts and the needs of colleges, but little was revealed as to how they came to their conclusion.

More because of its inherent structure and less because of the actions of individual committee members ­­­— many of whom took positive steps toward increasing transparency to the process than in the past — TPAC’s role was mostly moot. The amount of money the University receives is up to the Legislature; the directives were predetermined by the decision-makers; and even allocating where any new tuition money will go will be left up to the University Budget Council. With so many entities involved, TPAC is simply a player in the game of disseminating blame.

Now the onus shifts to Powers, who has two weeks for his one-man deliberation before crafting his own proposal for the Board of Regents.

In 2009, Powers adopted TPAC’s recommendation for a 3.95-percent tuition hike, and in 2007, the previous tuition-setting year, he supported the committee’s proposal for tuition increases. If he follows suit this year, TPAC’s recommendations will reach the Board of Regents. Considering the board issued the committee directives in the first place, the numbers will more than likely find their way back to the top.

Wednesday’s forum seemed like the end of the first chapter in the tuition-setting story, but with the circular nature of the process, students can predict how the book will end.