Graduate students deserve say in tuition rates

On February 19, the Graduate Student Assembly passed legislation asking that a GSA member be included in all conversations involving tuition on campus. The resolution comes after graduate student representation was left out of the 2015-2017 tuition working group. That group’s recommendations included increasing out-of-state undergraduate tuition by 3.6 percent while maintaining tuition rates for in-state undergraduates and all graduate and professional students. The recommendations were quickly stamped by President William Powers Jr. and sent off to the UT System for consideration, unnecessarily leaving out two segments of the UT community: graduate students and faculty. That GSA is not upset over the outcome, as the committee recommended not to increase any graduate tuition rates, is no matter. The lack of inclusion of graduate students in the tuition discussion sets an unfortunate precedent, and GSA was right to draw attention to it. 

Senate of College Councils President Andrew Clark was one of the three members on the committee, which included Student Government President Horacio Villarreal and finance and government senior Michelle Moon. The committee stands as the temporary replacement for the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee, known as TPAC. Clark told the Texan in January that the UT System’s instructions for the committee came in so late that the full committee could not form and the slimmed-down working group was tasked with the recommendations without the GSA or input from faculty members.

“TPAC has always been a holistic process with a lot of data collection, information gathering and open forums to voice their opinions on tuition,” Clark told the Texan in January. “Given that we were under time constraints, we did not feel like we had the ability to do a full-scale TPAC like we did in years past.”

Two years ago, when tuition rates were last set, TPAC stood in full force with five faculty members and four student members, including the GSA president at the time.

TPAC was first introduced in 2003 in an effort to include student voices in the debate over tuition. By leaving out GSA this year, 13,000 graduate students had no say in the matter. Granted, only 507 graduate students voted in GSA executive alliance election in late February, indicating only a fraction of graduate views are even reaching GSA. 

Now, because the System dragged its feet in providing instruction for the committee, the group’s recommendations for the next two years will stand, hastily considered and without any input from a group that constitutes more than one-fifth of the student body. With an issue as important as setting tuition, no committee should be rushed into a decision, no graduate students should feel silenced and no faculty advice should be bypassed. The System did no one any favors with the way they handled these recommendations, and it should recognize its mistake long before the 2018-2020 committee takes shape and honor GSA’s request for more graduate student involvement.