Student tuition proposal includes guaranteed tuition plan

Madlin Mekelburg

In their proposal that recommends increasing tuition for all in-state undergraduate students by 2.6 percent and for all out-of-state undergraduate students by 3.6 percent, the seven student leaders on the committee also proposed an option that would create a guaranteed tuition plan for the first time at UT.

The student group submitted its recommendations to the System on Friday afternoon, after the deadline for submitting proposals was extended for all working groups at each System institution. According to Wanda Mercer, associate vice chancellor for student affairs at the System, UT-Austin group is one of the only groups to submit its proposal so far. 

“Many of them are taking advantage of our opportunity to get more student input,” Mercer said. “We didn’t even give them a deadline [because] we so much wanted to provide them with the opportunity they needed. … It’s very vague.”

The UT student group’s tuition increase proposal would raise the weighted-average tuition for undergraduates taking 15 credit hours from $4,899 to $5,026. Out-of-state undergraduate tuition would increase from $16,921 to $17,361. In addition to the recommendation, the proposal included a guaranteed tuition rate plan, which allows students to set a tuition rate that will remain unchanged for a four-year period. The plan allows students to have an exact value for how much their tuition will cost over four years, as the rate does not change based on mandated tuition increases. 

The group’s proposal requests a 4-percent increase in tuition to be compounded annually for the fall 2014 cohort, meaning a student who opts into the guaranteed tuition rate plan will have a tuition increase of 4 percent every year his or her tuition is due, no matter what the state dictates. The initial tuition under the plan for fall 2014 will be a 4-percent increase from the tuition in fall 2013. The proposal does not include a guaranteed tuition plan option for graduate and professional students. 

In February 2013, the UT System Board of Regents voted to require the implementation of a guaranteed tuition rate plan at all nine academic institutions starting in the fall of 2014. UT-Dallas has been offering a guaranteed tuition rate plan since fall 2007 and is the only System institution to do so on its own, according to System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo. She said a guaranteed tuition plan encourages students to graduate in four years. 

“UT-Dallas, which moved to a guaranteed tuition plan in the fall of 2007, has already seen positive effects [from its guaranteed tuition plan],” LaCoste-Caputo said. “The four-year graduation rate for UT-Dallas students who entered college in the fall of 2006 was 44.9 percent, compared to 50.6 percent for students who entered college in the fall of 2008.”

Horacio Villarreal, Student Government president and member of the group, said the option could be beneficial to students. 

“It is a beneficial plan for students to choose because, at the end of the day, many things can happen to cause a spike in costs for whatever reason, so having the opportunity to pick a percentage for their four years gives not only the student but whoever is paying for the tuition a safeguard against an even higher increase than any of the years that they will be paying,” Villarreal said.