The UT System Board of Regents voted 5-3 Monday to raise tuition at UT-Austin by 3.1 percent for the 2016–2017 academic year and by another 3 percent for 2017–2018.
This is the first tuition increase after four years of flat tuition rates at UT-Austin. Tuition was last raised by 4 percent for the 2011–2012 academic year. The increase will cost students approximately $300 more each semester by fall 2017, although the exact cost will vary for in-state and out-of-state students, and between colleges. Student success initiatives to raise four-year graduation rates, research programs, faculty salaries and campus facilities all will be funded by the tuition increase, according to the Tuition Advisory Policy Committee.
“Our academic institutions’ [tuition rates] remain well below the academic average, even with the increase in tuition and fees,” Chancellor William McRaven said before the Board voted to increase tuition. “As the appropriated funds continue to decline, … we need additional revenue to improve the quality across our institutions.”
The increase comes at a time when UT is attempting to bolster its national reputation, despite limited funding from the legislature. McRaven said in a Feb. 10 Board of Regents meeting that a tuition increase would help UT rise from 52nd place in the national rankings to match its peer universities. The University of California has five schools in the top 50 nationally ranked schools, according to the U.S. News and World Report’s rankings. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is ranked 30th nationally, and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is ranked 29th.
“This is really about staying competitive,” McRaven said at the February meeting.
McRaven’s comments did not come without backlash, however. Regent Alex Cranberg said the tuition increase would not increase proportionally for students who receive financial aid.
“[A student is] going to work an extra ten hours a month to cover the tuition increase,” Cranberg, who voted against the tuition increase, said at a board meeting in February. “Maybe it’s Starbucks for some students, and it’s a couple weeks or a month of groceries for another student.”
English freshman Eden Tesfaslassie, who receives financial aid, said paying more in tuition may jeopardize her ability to attend UT next semester, depending on how much aid she remains eligible for next semester.
“With tuition, with housing, it already seems like going to school is expensive,” Tesfaslassie said. “I might not be able to afford it next year.”
UT President Gregory Fenves said in a letter released to the UT community Monday the tuition increase would help UT remain a quality university.
“I know that for many students and their families, this tuition increase is not welcome news,” Fenves wrote. “But it is vital for the university to fulfill our mission of achieving excellence in undergraduate education, graduate education, research and public service.”
UT Student Body President Xavier Rotnofsky said he “begrudgingly” supported the tuition increase but said the legislature needs to fund tuition at a higher level.
“At this point, it would either be academic programs being cut and cool university programs getting cut [if tuition were not increased],” said Rotnofsky, who is a Plan II and linguistics senior. “The state has continued to decrease appropriations to us, so definitely the best avenue would be to increase state funding to public universities.”