Second Texas bill would mandate fixed-tuition rates at universities

Joshua Fechter

Universities would be required to freeze tuition for the duration of students’ undergraduate degree plans if the Texas Legislature approves a bill filed in the House of Representatives.

The bill, filed Friday by Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, would prohibit universities from charging students who graduate on time a tuition rate higher than the one charged during their first semester or term at a university.

Tuition rates would remain stagnant during a four-year period for undergraduates enrolled in a four-year degree plan and during a five-year period for those enrolled in a five-year degree plan.

This differs from a bill filed by Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, which requires universities to offer students a fixed-rate tuition plan but allows universities to offer other plans. Branch’s bill also does not address students who are enrolled in five-year degree plans.

At a Senate Finance Committee meeting Monday, University of Texas at Austin President William Powers Jr. said after UT-Dallas implemented a fixed-rate tuition plan, the administration at UT-Austin approached student leadership about implementing a similar plan. Powers said administrators did not find much interest in the plan among student groups but having the option to pay a fixed rate may appeal to families paying for students’ tuition.

“Some families will want that. They would rather pay a little bit more than they have to so they can budget better,” Powers said. “Other families won’t want that. They’d rather pay a little less now and then take the risk that it might go up a little bit later. We think a program where different options are offered to students makes a lot of sense.”

Michael Morton, Senate of College Councils president, serves on the University’s Tuition Policy Advisory Committee and said the current proposals surrounding fixed-rate tuition do not properly address students’ individual academic needs. 

“It’s potentially a good thing, but there needs to be more work on the details,” Morton said.

At the Senate Finance Committee meeting, UT-Dallas President David Daniel said his university implemented a fixed-rate tuition option to encourage students to graduate in a timely manner. He said he recommends institutions consider the plan.

“It works great for us, but whether it would work well for anyone else, I cannot say,” Daniel said.

Printed on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 as: Additional bill would mandate fixed tuition