Forum: Engage in tuition debate

Rachel Osterloh

On Oct. 2 of this year, the Board of Regents authorized UT System schools to raise tuition by up to 2 percent, with those increases beginning in the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years. UT-Austin is now called upon to present a proposal to the Board of Regents by the end of the semester under an expedited timeline. During this tuition-setting process, it is vital that students engage with their legislative student organizations in order to have their opinions heard. 

The first area under consideration must be the impact that an increase in tuition prices will have on the affordability of a UT education. The proposed increase of 2 percent — which will be around $150 a semester — is less than a three-day ACL pass. This comparison is not meant to mitigate the financial concerns of students but rather provide perspective. Our university is frequently lauded as being one of the top schools for affordability. Even with this proposed 2 percent increase, UT-Austin would remain one of the greatest ‘bang-for-your-buck’ institutions.

UT-Austin is currently spending more than it makes a year, creating challenges in retaining top faculty, maintaining our vast campus and expanding innovative programs. The quality of a UT-Austin degree should not be diminished by our inability to properly pay our bills. This $150 increase per semester is one step among many that would allow UT-Austin to improve its financial solvency. Other possible measures include increasing UT’s allocation of PUF funding and advocating for a greater budget from the legislature. 

Throughout the tuition-setting process, student opinion is gauged through the use of CTBACs (College Tuition And Budget Advisory Committees). Established in 2010, CTBACs are committees in each college council that serve as a liaison between the students of that college and their dean. The reports from these committees are ultimately submitted to the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC), which writes the final tuition report that is submitted to the President. 

This year, CTBACs, the Senate of College Councils, Student Government and the Graduate Student Assembly will focus on gauging student opinion through a series of college-specific and university-wide town halls. In the past, students have used these opportunities to advocate for and against tuition increases and express college-wide priorities. This year, I urge you to engage with your legislative student organizations to voice your opinions about the tuition increase. During the week of Nov. 2–6, the Senate of College Councils, Student Government and the Graduate Student Assembly will be hosting information sessions during their General Assembly meetings. Come to our presentations. Engage with your college’s CTBAC. We want to hear from our student constituents. Let us know your thoughts about tuition so we can keep UT-Austin a university of the first class. 

Osterloh is a government and philosophy senior from Austin. She is the president of the Senate of College Councils. 

Editor's Note: This column has been updated since its initial publication. A previous version of this column stated that CTBACs were established in 2002. This column has since been updated to reflect that CTBACs were established in 2010.