Throwback Thursday: Since 1972, tuition has risen from $60 to $4,899

Kevin Sharifi

With some students having already registered and some about to do so, the coming fall semester has Longhorns either dreading the $4,000-5,000 blow to their finances or wondering whether their self-worth will allow them to accept another several-thousand-dollar donation from their parents. But tuition once cost less than a year’s worth of Netflix.

A June 1, 1971 article in The Summer Texan warned students that then-Gov. Preston Smith had signed a tuition increase bill that, by 1972, would put tuition on a semester-hour basis and charge students a staggering $4 per semester-hour. 

“The measure, which passed both houses of the Legislature May 21, puts tuition on a semester hour basis with resident students paying $4 per semester hour,” the article said. “Thus a student taking a normal 15-hour load will pay $60 tuition, up $10 from the present $50 fee. Students taking 12 hours or less, however, will not benefit because the measure sets a $50 minimum tuition fee for a regular semester.”

If the culprit for increases in resident tuition since 1972 were merely inflation, an in-state student taking 15 hours at UT today would be paying approximately $330 per semester — just $4,569 shy of the current weighted-average tuition for a UT student taking 15 credit hours.

The 1971 bill also stipulated that tuition for nonresidents enrolling in 1972 would increase to $40 per semester-hour, meaning a total of $600 in tuition fees for an out-of-state UT student taking 15 hours. If inflation were the only factor influencing out-of-state tuition increases, nonresident students today would be paying approximately $3,300 per semester instead of the current $16,921.

A UT student committee’s pending tuition proposal to the UT System Board of Regents includes an increase in the weighted-average resident tuition from $4,899 to $5,026 and an increase in the weighted-average nonresident tuition from $16,921 to $17,361. 

For new residents, the proposal also offers what would become the first guaranteed tuition plan to be implemented at UT. If this plan were to go into effect, students that choose the guaranteed tuition plan would pay an average of $5,433 per semester for resident tuition and $18,880 per semester for nonresident tuition.